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June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
  
15 September 2015
Greg Kandra




A picture taken on 14 September 2015 shows smoke billowing from the Syrian rebel-held area of Douma, east of the capital Damascus, following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces. The besieged area east of Syria’s capital suffered one of its bloodiest months in August, with ‘intense’ regime bombing attacks that killed and wounded hundreds,
Doctors Without Borders said. (photo: ABD Doumany/AFP/Getty Images)


For those who remain in Syria, daily life is a nightmare (The New York Times) Every morning, at the dawn call to prayer, women and children move silently from the Damascus suburb of Douma to the surrounding farm fields, seeking safety from the day’s bombardments by the Syrian government. The walk is part of a surreal routine described by the fraction of Douma’s residents who remain: shopping on half-demolished streets, scavenging wild greens, carrying out mass burials. But not even the fields are safe; recently, medics said, bombs killed two families there — 10 people, including seven children. As crowds of Syrians transfix the world with their flight to Europe, this kind of life is one of the many nightmares they are fleeing...

Vatican welcomes Iran agreement (Vatican Radio) The Holy See has welcomed Iran’s efforts to reduce or convert its nuclear facilities to peaceful purposes in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. In a statement delivered to the 59th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Monday, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said the Vatican “values positively” Iran’s recent agreement with the European Union and the so-called ‘P5 plus 1’ group of nations because “it considers that the way to resolve disputes and difficulties should always be that of dialogue and negotiation”...

Canadian troops arrive in Ukraine to train soldiers (The Globe and Mail) The Canadian training mission is taking place 1,200 kilometres away from the front lines, but the Kremlin nonetheless sees the exercises as part of a NATO buildup on its doorstep. The Russian embassy in Ottawa has criticized the mission as “counterproductive and deplorable.”

Conference looks at impact of social media in Middle East (Fides) In the tragic events that plague the people of the Middle East, an undeniable and growing role is also played by communication through social media. In order to address this emergency and rediscover social media as a space for dialogue and understanding among different identities, the Kaiciid has organized the first training program for operators in this sector in Amman, entitled “United Against Violence in the Name of Religion”...

Catholic activist reportedly receives death threats in India (Fides) The well-known Catholic intellectual and human rights activist John Dayal has received death threats by radical Hindu groups. This is what Fides learns from sources in the Indian Catholic community. Dayal has denounced the threats to the police in New Delhi. According to information confirmed to Fides by Fr. Savari Muthu, a priest in New Delhi and spokesman of the Archdiocese, Hindu radicals started threatening Dayal on 12 September with telephone intimidations and on social networks, with derogatory and offensive comments towards Dayal and the Christian faith...



14 September 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2014, an Ethiopian Christian carries a cross on the Via Dolorosa in the
Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)


Today, 14 September, marks the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Some background:

Early in the fourth century St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. She razed the second-century Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior’s tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.

The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus’ head: Then “all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on.”

To this day the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica’s dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.

When he marked this feast two years ago, Pope Francis spoke of the cross as a mystery, and drew parallels between two trees — the one that led to man’s downfall in Eden, and the one that saved the world on Calvary:

“The one tree has wrought so much evil, the other tree has brought us to salvation, to health. This is the course of the humanity’s story: a journey to find Jesus Christ the Redeemer, who gives His life for love. God, in fact, has not sent the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. This tree of the Cross save us, all of us, from the consequences of that other tree, where self-sufficiency, arrogance, the pride of us wanting to know all things according to our own mentality, according to our own criteria, and also according to that presumption of being and becoming the only judges of the world. This is the story of mankind: from one tree to the other.”



14 September 2015
Greg Kandra




Seminarians enjoy a traditional Ethiopian meal at Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Theological College in Addis Ababa. To learn more about the training of Orthodox clergy in that part of the world, check out “As It Was, So Shall It Remain?” in the September 2009 edition of ONE.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)




14 September 2015
Greg Kandra




A migrant sits wrapped in an emergency blanket at the crossing point between Hungary and Austria in Nickelsdorf, Austria, on 11 September. (photo: CNS/Leonhard Foeger, Reuters)

Pope: refugee crisis is “tip of an iceberg” (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke about the refugee crisis during an interview with Portugal’s Radio Renascença which aired on Monday, calling it the “tip of an iceberg.” “These poor people are fleeing war, hunger, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Because underneath that is the cause; and the cause is a bad and unjust socioeconomic system, in everything, in the world — speaking of the environmental problem — in the socioeconomic society, in politics, the person always has to be in the center,” Pope Francis said...

Cor Unum convenes meeting on humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq (VIS) The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” has organized a meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq to be held on 17 September, which will be attended in particular by the Catholic charitable organisations active in the Middle East and the bishops of the region...

Israeli officials reject paying compensation for Catholic church damaged by arson (Fides) The tax authority in Israel has rejected in recent days the claim for compensation presented by the Catholic Church for the damage of the arsonist attack which last June devastated the Sanctuary of the Miracle of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish, in Tabgha...

In Nineveh Plain, Christians stage procession for Feast of Holy Cross (Fides) In the Nineveh Plain, still largely subject to the control of the self-proclaimed jihadist Islamic Caliphate, about a thousand Christians moved in procession among fields and barren hills to reach a Marian monastery out of town and celebrate the solemnity of the Holy Cross on Sunday evening, 13 September. This took place in Alqosh, a city of the Nineveh Plain which has never fallen into the hands of the Islamic Caliphate...

Ethiopian refugees play waiting game (Catholic Register) Major refugee sponsor agencies, including the Office for Refugees Archdiocese of Toronto, have been strictly limited in the number of refugees they may apply to sponsor from East Africa — home to 1.8 million UNHCR-registered refugees and three million internally displaced people. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) claims the limits on new applications to sponsor African refugees are there to give it a chance to clear the backlog. For government-sponsored refugees, CIC claims it manages to process 50 per cent of those cases within 25 months...

Priest offers Mass daily at destroyed West Bank olive orchards (CNS) Since hundreds of olive trees were uprooted to make room for a separation barrier through the Cremisan Valley adjacent to this largely Christian village, Father Aktham Hijazin, Annunciation parish priest, has been celebrating Mass daily behind red-and-white police tape. The tape — and the border police who patrol the area — prevent some 56 Palestinian landowners from reaching their land. A dump truck rumbles by, kicking up dust, just metres away from where the priest has set up his makeshift altar: a small table covered by a white cloth with three olive tree saplings at its base. On 6 September, as Hijazin celebrated Mass for a handful of local landowners and a small Swedish group, the sound of the trucks occasionally drowned out their voices. Later, coughing slightly, the priest held up the consecrated Eucharist, first toward the worshipers, then facing the destroyed orchards...

Russian Orthodox Church demands DNA testing on reported remains of Tsar’s children (IBT) The Russian Orthodox Church has demanded further testing of the remains believed to belong to the son and daughter of Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II, which the government plans to rebury in St. Petersburg. On Friday, a working group set up by the Russian government proposed on Friday to bury crown prince Alexei Romanov and his sister, grand duchess Maria, with the remains of their mother, father and siblings, in Peter and Paul Cathedral on 18 October...



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ethiopia Israel Russian Orthodox

11 September 2015
Greg Kandra




In this photo from 9 September, Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, the prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern United States, participate in an ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph Church on Capitol Hill opening the In Defense of Christians Leadership Convention in Washington.
(photo: CNS/Jaclyn Lippelmann)


A gathering in Washington this week called attention to the plight of Christians in the Middle East:

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington called for solidarity with the persecuted Christians of the Middle East during a 9 September prayer service at a Roman Catholic church on Capitol Hill.

The prayer service was held in conjunction with the In Defense of Christians summit held at a Capitol Hill hotel, within walking distance of St. Joseph Church.

The summit is the second for the organization, which Cardinal Wuerl noted in his reflections during the prayer service.

“All of came together (in 2014) so the people could ... express solidarity with our brothers and sisters,” he said, “and bear prayerful witness to the suffering of so many ... especially our Christian brothers and sisters.”

This year, Cardinal Wuerl said, “we are gathered in solidarity and witness” again to support the region’s Christians who face “tragedy” every day. “Much, much needs to be said about what continues to happen in the Middle East,” he added.

“After the prayer service, we can walk out and enjoy freedom. So many of our brothers and sisters cannot do that.”

Cardinal Wuerl recalled the beatitudes, as proclaimed in English at the prayer service — but also in sung chant — by Melkite Father Nabil Haddad, founder of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, and in particular, “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” These, the cardinal said, are today’s Middle East’s Christians.

“We know that we can offer our prayers,” he added. “Prayer helps. Prayer is effective.”

Read the rest.



11 September 2015
Greg Kandra




The pope has called for concrete steps to help persecuted Christians in the Middle East. In the video above, an organization reports that a petition calling for action from the United Nations has garnered 130,000 signatures. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope discusses refugee crisis with Serbian president (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with the President of the Serbian Republic Tomislav Nikolic to discuss common interests, including the current refugee crisis, as well as relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the Balkan country. A statement from the Vatican press office after the private meeting said the two leaders also discussed Serbia’s progress towards integration into the European Union and the Catholic Church’s contribution to the common good of Serbian society...

European bishops say migration issue requires a continent-wide solution (CNS) The European Union must adopt a common asylum policy “without delay” because it is unacceptable for refugees to “drown and suffocate” at the fringes of the bloc, said the European bishops. A statement issued by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, COMECE, said a common policy would prevent countries from keeping out migrants. “If we can solve an economic crisis at an overnight EU extraordinary summit, then it should be just as easy with this crisis, especially when the fate of so many people is at stake. After all, the question of a common solution to the refugee crisis is also an issue that directly affects the values and the future of Europe,” said the statement issued 10 September...

U.S. official: ISIS making and using chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria (BBC) There is a growing belief within the US government that the Islamic State militant group is making and using crude chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria, a US official has told the BBC. The US has identified at least four occasions on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border where ISIS has used mustard agents, the official said. The official said the chemical was being used in powder form...

Russian Orthodox Church stands up for Muslim book ruled “extremist” by court (RT) Probes into allegations of extremism in ancient sacred writings should be banned, the Russian Orthodox Church said after a controversial court ruling over a Muslim book was announced in the Russian city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Ancient religious texts written hundreds of years ago should be immune from any form of legal process, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin said in an interview with Interfax on Thursday...

“What I learned worshipping with Egypt’s Christians” (Christianity Today) Though different from our evangelical congregations back in America, the Coptic community offered us a vibrant place of faith where the gospel was preached, people were healed, and members strengthened each other. We sat through large open-air services with lively worship led by a praise team. We also attended solemn masses in hushed Arabic tones. Led by a soft-spoken priest simply called Abouna (“Our Father”), we often felt like we were discovering the early church...



10 September 2015
Greg Kandra




A resident of the Deivadan Home in Malayatoor, India, receives a blessing from 96-year-old Father Abraham Kaippenplackal, founder of the Deivadan Sisters. The sisters run the facility, whose mission is to help uplift Kerala’s abandoned elderly. To learn more, read “Fearless Grace” from the July 2010 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)



10 September 2015
Greg Kandra




A Syrian refugee woman cries as she carries her baby through the mud to cross the border from Greece into Macedonia near the Greek village of Idomeni on 10 September.
(photo: CNS/Yannis Behrakis, Reuters)


Archdiocese of Toronto to sponsor 100 refugee families from Syria (Catholic Register) One hundred more families, three-million more dollars and an infinite well of compassion will be the Archdiocese of Toronto’s response to photos of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s tiny, lifeless body lying on a Turkish beach. As interest in Syria’s 3.5 million refugees has spiked with front page pictures and television coverage of the Kurdi family, as well as thousands of refugees struggling through Hungary and Greece on their way to Germany and Western Europe, Cardinal Thomas Collins has decided to add to the more than 600 refugee cases Toronto Catholics have already taken on this year...

A new wave of migrants flees Iraq (The New York Times) Emboldened by the recent wave of news coverage showing their countrymen and fellow Arabs fleeing the war in Syria and reaching Europe, many Iraqis see a new opportunity to get out. After years of violence and unmet promises for democracy by a corrupt political elite, Iraqis who resisted leaving during previous crises are now embarking on the country’s next great wave of emigration, an exodus that leaders warn is further tearing at the country at a time when its unity, more than ever, is threatened by the militants of the Islamic State...

Russia sends weapons, military experts to Syria (Vatican Radio) Russian forces have reportedly begun participating in military operations in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s government troops...

Sex-selective abortions, trafficking impacting marriage in India (AP) When Sadhuram Berwal wanted to get married, his family went about it in the traditional Indian way, asking relatives, neighbors and local temple priests to suggest a young woman. But after an extensive search among women of his caste in his area, no suitable bride could be found. A larger factor had narrowed the field sharply: a skewed male-female ratio that is particularly pronounced in his home state of Haryana, in India’s north, due to sex-selective abortions in a society where many families prize boys over girls, mostly for economic reasons...

Happy New Year 2008 in Ethiopia (Vatican Radio) On the occasion of the Ethiopian New Year 2008, this Saturday 12 September, the Archbishop of Addis Ababa, Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel has given his New Year message and blessing through the Ethiopian media. The Ethiopian calendar is based on the Coptic calendar, which was fixed to the Julian calendar in 25 B.C. by the Emperor Augustus of Rome with a start date of 29 August J.C., thus establishing the New Year on this day...



9 September 2015
Greg Kandra




Syrian children walk amid the dust during a sandstorm on 7 September 2015 at a refugee camp on the outskirts of the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)

A massive sandstorm is taking a devastating and deadly toll on parts of the Middle East this week:

Thick yellow dust blew into Middle Eastern capitals from the east on Tuesday, putting life — and war — briefly on pause.

The massive sandstorm started in Iraq and also blanketed parts of Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories on Tuesday.

Health authorities in several countries warned people not to leave their homes, and schools closed in Jordan and Lebanon. Many flights across the region were grounded due to poor visibility. The Syrian regime even called off airstrikes against rebels in central Syria on Monday due to the weather.

While some Syrians had a brief respite from the bombing, the storm presented dangers of its own. Thousands of Syrians were hospitalized with breathing problems and oxygen supplies were running low in some areas, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. In the Syrian capital Damascus, health officials said they had treated more than 1,200 people, including 100 children, with breathing difficulties.

Several casualties were reported in connection with the storm in Lebanon. The country’s health ministry said two women were killed and some 750 hospitalized. Syrian refugees sheltering in informal camps in Lebanon were particularly hard hit by the storm, Agence France Press reported.

AFP added:

Syria’s health minister urged citizens to “avoid prolonged exposure to the outdoors” and said hundreds of people had been treated for cases of asthma and other respiratory problems.

Thick haze was hanging over Jerusalem and much of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, with officials also warning the vulnerable to stay indoors.

The view from the Mount of Olives — which normally offers a sweeping panorama of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Al Aqsa mosque compound with its golden Dome of the Rock — was completely obscured by the dust.

The thick cloud also enveloped parts of the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where residents were told to limit their time outdoors.

...The interior ministry said that dozens of Syrian refugees who had been rescued from a fishing boat off the coast of Cyprus on Sunday had been moved from a makeshift camp to a better-equipped facility because of the extreme weather.



9 September 2015
Greg Kandra




Following Pope Francis’s call for European churches to house refugees, Vatican officials in the video above say about half a million people might be helped. (video: Rome Reports)

UN: 850,000 refugees to cross sea to Europe this year (Reuters) At least 850,000 people are expected to cross the Mediterranean seeking refuge in Europe this year and next, the United Nations said on Tuesday, giving estimates that already look conservative. The UN refugee agency UNHCR called for more cohesive asylum policies to deal with the growing numbers...

Vatican official calls for religious freedom in Middle East (Vatican Radio) Religious freedom and respect for the rights of Christians and other minority groups in the Middle East were at the heart of an address by the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, at an international conference held in Paris on Tuesday...

Syrian group calls for “safe passage” to help Syrian Christians (ABC) Australia is being urged to help create a safe passage for minority groups stranded as refugees in Syria and surrounding countries. President of the Australian Christian Syrian Association Christine Hanna said it was all well and good for Australia to increase its Syrian refugee intake, but many people, especially the Christians, were finding it extremely hard to flee to another country...

UN: death toll in Ukraine nears 8,000 (The New York Times) Nearly 8,000 people have died in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the United Nations said Tuesday in a report blaming the continuing influx of fighters and weaponry from Russia as the major obstacle to peace...

Eritrea warns Ethiopia of “sabre rattling” (AFP) Eritrea has accused arch-rival Ethiopia of “sabre-rattling” and of threatening to invade, with the neighbors still in a tense standoff following a 1998-2000 border war. Asmara’s Ministry of Information said in a statement that war-like rhetoric from Ethiopia’s main party in the ruling coalition — the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) — had increased. Eritrea, which broke away from Ethiopia in 1991 after a brutal 30-year independence struggle, remains on an effective war-footing with Addis Ababa after a return to war in 1998...

Coptic patriarch: the Church’s mission is spiritual, not political (Fides) The Coptic Church is a reality of spiritual nature that serves the entire Egyptian society, without exception, and carries out that service without claiming direct political roles, but merely exercising its ecclesial mission. This is what Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II said, speaking in a parish in Cairo. In his speech, Pope Tawadros intentionally repeated that the Coptic Church does not offer direct and personal support to any candidate, and also its social, charitable and educational activities are all carried out in relation to its mission, to the benefit of salvation of all...



Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine Ethiopia Eritrea





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