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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
26 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis shakes hands with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran at the start of their private audience in the Vatican on 26 January. (photo: Vatican Radio/ANSA)

Pope meets Iranian President Rouhani (Vatican Radio) Today, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Francis received in audience His Excellency Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. During the cordial discussions, common spiritual values emerged and reference was made to the good state of relations between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the life of the Church in the country and the action of the Holy See to favour the promotion of the dignity of the human person and religious freedom...

Pope asks mercy, pardon for ways Christians have harmed one another (CNS) After walking across the threshold of the Holy Door with an Orthodox metropolitan and an Anglican archbishop, Pope Francis invoked God’s mercy upon divided Christians and apologized for times that Catholics may have hurt members of other denominations. “As bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to beg for mercy and forgiveness for un-Gospel-like behavior on the part of Catholics against Christians of other churches,” the pope said 25 January at a prayer service concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity...

Archbishop: Syria peace talks must remember Christians (Vatican Radio) The Vatican representative to the United Nations agencies in Geneva said on Tuesday the “needs of Christians” and other religious minorities must be “taken into serious consideration” at UN-sponsored talks aimed at ending the Syrian civil war...

Chaldean patriarch: “evil hand” has brought chaos in the Middle East (Fides) In a speech prepared for the conference on the rights of religious minorities in the Muslim world, the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Louis Raphael I, outlined the underlying causes of the conflicts that are tearing apart his country and the entire region. “It seems that the evil hand has put in place all that was planned to change the situation,” he said, causing untold suffering to the peoples of the Middle East. And “it is no secret” that “the intervention of external ‘players’ who acted according to their own ambitions in the region was crucial.” They are the ones who “have used democracy and freedom as a cover to rob our natural resources, peace and freedom, and they have created chaos and terrorism in Iraq and the Middle East”...

“Ecumenism of blood” for persecuted Christians (Catholic Register) We live in a time when ecumenism is driven by martyrdom, preached Cardinal Thomas Collins to a mostly Chaldean gathering at the Chaldean Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in northwest Toronto. “Ecumenism of blood — that is what we are experiencing now in these days of persecution,” said Collins. Though persecution of Christians is most visibly associated with the Middle East, Christians in Africa, India and many other places have been targeted and killed, said Collins. The cardinal singled out the 21 Egyptian Coptic migrants who were beheaded by Islamic State terrorists in Libya last February...

Dialogue between the Church and Hindu fanatics? (Fides) The news relaunched by some newspapers that the Hindu nationalist group “Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh” intends to initiate dialogue with the Catholic Church and Christian groups has created an intense debate in India. According to information circulating, Indresh Kumar, member of the National Council of the RSS, said he wanted to “build bridges of good will with minority communities,” such as Christians and Muslims in India...



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Chaldeans Iran

25 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees wait at the border near Royashed, Jordan on 14 January. Bishop Antoine Nassif, Canada’s first bishop for Syriac Catholics, says he’ll make refugees a priority.
(photo: CNS/Stringer, EPA)


The newly ordained bishop for the Syriac Catholic Church in Canada has pledged to make his first priority the suffering of refugees. The story, from CNS:

Bishop Antoine Nassif was ordained on 23 January by Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan at Our Lady of Deliverance Cathedral in Beirut. He will lead the first apostolic exarchate for Syriac Catholics living in Canada, with the jurisdiction based in Montreal and Laval, Quebec.

The Canadian exarchate, similar to a diocese, covers territory there that was once part of the Newark, New Jersey-based Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance, established in 1995.

After his ordination, Bishop Nassif noted the new exarchate was erected in the Year of Mercy and at a time when God “is offering so much" to the Syriac church, most notably the beatification in August of Syriac Catholic Bishop Flavien Michel Melki, a century after he was beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam.

The new bishop added that the blood of the martyrs “didn’t quench the thirst of their persecutors,” alluding to the persecution facing Christians in Syria and Iraq as a result of Syria’s civil war and the uprooting of Christians by the Islamic State group.

Days before his ordination, Bishop Nassif, who was born in Biakout, Lebanon, told Catholic News Service that he never imagined becoming bishop or going to Canada as shepherd to Syriac Catholics there.

“But I’m obeying. I’m ready to be where God sends me. This is the real call, to understand and to feel that in every step I can see God's hand guiding me,” he said.

“With what is happening in our Middle East, and most importantly with the refugees — Syrian, Iraqi and others — I will put their suffering on the top of my priorities, especially their spiritual needs,” he pledged.

Read the full story.



25 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from November 2015, Pope Francis receives a gift from children during during a visit to Christuskirche, a parish of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Rome. The Vatican announced on 25 January that the pope will visit Sweden in October to participate in an ecumenical event marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
(photo: CNS/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)


Pope will travel to Sweden to commemorate Reformation (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will travel to Sweden in October for a joint ecumenical commemoration of the start of the Reformation, together with leaders of the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of other Christian Churches...

Christian area in Syria attacked (Fides) At least three people were killed and 10 others wounded in a bomb attack in Syria’s northeastern Kurdish city of Qamishli, on on the evening of Sunday 24 January. The attack took place in the mostly Christian neighborhood and was carried out with a motorcycle bomb. The blast hit the restaurant in “Miami Street”...

The life of Syrian refugees who escape civil war for a refugee camp (Huffington Post) Why would anyone want to stay in a refugee camp? Last year I visited Zaatari Refugee Camp, located just a few miles from the Syrian border in Jordan. I was traveling with International Orthodox Christian Charities, which carries out an expansive ministry addressing the many needs of Syrians inside and outside of their country...

Russian Orthodox TV reporters expelled from Moldova (TASS) Reporters of the Russian Orthodox television broadcaster Tsargrad have been deported from Moldova in the wake of an information blockade in that country. Tsargrad Editor-in-Chief Aleksey Kravchenko told TASS that on Saturday morning Moldova’s special services forced a TV team — the correspondent Ivan Kolesnikov and the cameraman Sergey Krasnov — to leave their hotel and then drove them to the airport where the reporters were made to board an Aeroflot airliner bound for Moscow...

Muslim leaders plan summit on protecting non-Muslims (RNS) Hundreds of Muslim scholars will meet in Morocco next week to reassert the rights of non-Muslims living among them as Christians and other religious minorities flee extremism across the Middle East for safety and freedom elsewhere. In these times, Muslims must affirm their tradition’s true teachings on tolerance, said Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Zaytuna College, the first Muslim liberal arts college in the United States. The summit meeting, expected to attract more than 300 Muslim religious leaders, will hark back to the Charter of Medina, in which the Prophet Muhammad enumerated the rights of non-Muslims 1,400 years ago...

Indian Jesuit now serving refugees in Beirut (Vatican Radio) An Indian Jesuit priest and fearless human rights activist has moved to Beirut, Lebanon, to render his services to refugees. The Rev. Cedric Prakash — a well-known human rights and peace activist, who headed the human rights centre in Ahmedabad, Gujarat state, called “Prashant” — is working among the thousands of internally displaced people...

Celebrating centenary of cathedral in India (The Hindu) The valedictory of the centenary year celebrations of the St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral on Stringer Street, Broadway, was marked by a special service at the cathedral led by the head of the Orthodox Church, Baselios Marthoma Paulose II and later, a public meeting held at the Ewart School auditorium on Sunday...



Tags: India Pope Francis Ecumenism Muslim Islam

22 January 2016
Greg Kandra




These two watercolor paintings are by Egyptian artist Gamal Lamie. His paintings at a Cairo art gallery depict calm mothers with serene children, shining stars, doves, flowers, trees, fish and blue waters, the many attributes of an Egypt that once existed, and, he believes, can again be achieved. (photo: CNS/courtesy Gamal Lamie)

Egypt has suffered terribly over the last few years, but one artist is trying to paint a different vision of what Egypt could be:

Gamal Lamie’s paintings at a Cairo art gallery depict calm mothers with serene children, shining stars, doves, flowers, trees, fish and blue waters — the many attributes of an Egypt that once existed, and, he believes, can again be achieved.

All it takes is hope, said the Egyptian artist, a member of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority that traces its roots back to St. Mark the Apostle.

“I think during the last five years, you can see what happened in Egypt and the Middle East area. So ... as an artist, I send a message to the whole world that we need hope," Lamie told Catholic News Service almost exactly five years after a January 2011 revolution shook the predominantly Muslim North African nation and toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Waves of civil and political unrest across Egypt have killed and wounded thousands of people since then.

“Hope means peace, it means stability. It’s not weapons, it’s not fighting. We need to live in peace, that is why I call it ‘Hope,’” Lamie said of the title he’d chosen for his exhibit of watercolors in a small ground-floor apartment-turned-art gallery in an upscale district of Cairo.

Read the full story. Meantime, to support Egypt’s struggling Christians, visit this page to learn how you can make a difference in so many lives.



22 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia describes his recent visit to Syria. The U.N. is warning that hundreds of thousands of people across Syria are facing starvation and malnutrition.
(video: Rome Reports)


Pope to World Economic Forum: “Do not forget the poor!” (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed to the economic leaders of the world not to forget the poor. The Pope’s cry for justice and integral development came in a message to the participants of the annual World Economic Forum taking place in Davos, Switzerland...

U.N.: Hundreds of thousands in Syria at risk of starvation (The Washington Post) Hundreds of thousands of people across Syria in areas besieged by government forces and opposition fighters are at risk of starvation and worsening malnutrition, U.N. officials, aid workers and activists warn. The warring parties are cutting off food and medicine to more than a dozen areas, causing civilians to die and complicating renewed peace efforts to end the country’s civil war...

Jihadist leaders fleeing Nineveh (Fides) While US-led air strikes against the positions of the Islamic State intensify in the area of Mosul and Nineveh Plain, a growing number of military jihadist leaders leave the region, aimed at joining the militia linked to Daesh operating in Libya and Yemen...

Pope issues message of mercy for World Communications Day (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the 50th World Day of Social Communications was released on Friday, entitled ‘Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter’. Quoting from Shakespeare, the Gospels and the Old Testament, the Pope reminds each one of us that our “every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all”...

In India, keeping the lamp of Margamkali burning (The Hindu) Margamkali is one of those traditional art forms that manage to stay afloat owing to arts festivals conducted in the State. The folk art of Syrian Christians involves a group of dancers performing around a traditional lamp in a symbolic representation of the Christ standing among the disciples...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Pope Francis

19 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from August 2015, women process into St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajone, California for an ordination. To learn more about the thriving Chaldeans of the American southwest, read Nineveh, U.S.A. in the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Nancy Wiechec)



19 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis listens as Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, speaks during during the pope’s visit to the main synagogue in Rome on Sunday 17 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope visits Rome synagogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday became the third pope to visit Rome’s synagogue in a sign of continuing Catholic-Jewish friendship. During the visit that featured welcome speeches by prominent members of Rome’s Jewish community and a speech by the Pope, Francis greeted a number of people including several Holocaust survivors...

Report: Nearly 19,000 civilians killed in Iraq over 21 months (CNN) Nearly 19,000 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015 — a toll the United Nations calls “staggering” in a new report. The report, released Tuesday, outlines the horrific impact that Iraq’s ongoing conflict is having on its civilian population...

Vatican official: Dialogue is the only way to counter extremism (Vatican Radio) Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on Sunday said “to counter extremism we have to commit ourselves to a sincere dialogue.” He was speaking at the First Arab Thinkers Forum at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi...

Pope to migrants: Do not be robbed of hope, joy of living (CNS) Welcoming thousands of migrants and refugees to the Vatican for their own Year of Mercy celebration, Pope Francis urged them to resist everything that would rob them of hope and joy. “Each of you is the bearer of a history, culture and precious values and, unfortunately, also often of experiences of poverty, oppression and fear,” the pope said on 17 January. But gathering in St. Peter’s Square for the Holy Year “is a sign of hope in God. Don’t allow yourselves to be robbed of hope and the joy of living, which spring from the experience of divine mercy, also thanks to the people who welcomed and helped you...”

Report: Hundreds of cases of anti-Christian violence in India (Fides) In 2015 over 200 anti-Christian violence occurred. Seven Protestant pastors and one lay person were killed, while the victims of violence as a whole are about 8,000, including women and children...

Believers celebrate Orthodox Epiphany with icy plunge (AP) Believers in St Petersburg, Russia, celebrate Orthodox Epiphany on Monday by taking a dip in icy cold water. The event started with a procession to the water, which was then blessed by a priest.Swimming in icy water is a traditional way for the Russian faithfuls to celebrate Epiphany...



14 January 2016
Greg Kandra




A refugee drinks tea in front of his tent in the refugee camp in the coastal town of Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk, France on 10 January. (photo: CNS/Stephanie Lecocq, EPA)

Care for refugees and displaced persons has been a consistent theme of Pope Francis, and CNS’s Cindy Wooden has some background:

“We are called to serve Christ the crucified through every marginalized person,” Pope Francis said in the new book, “The Name of God Is Mercy.”

“We touch the flesh of Christ in he who is outcast, hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, ill, unemployed, persecuted, in search of refuge,” the pope continued. “That is where we find our God, that is where we touch our Lord.”

The U.N. Refugee Agency reported last June that at the end of 2014, the number of people forcibly displaced because of persecution, conflict and violence reached the highest number ever recorded; it had grown to “a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.” The U.N. estimated the number had surpassed 60 million by the end of 2015.

The chief cause of the increase was the conflict in Syria, a conflict that is ongoing and continues to send people fleeing.

In 2015, the U.N. reported, 244 million people, or 3.3 percent of the world’s population, lived outside their country of origin.

The plight of migrants and refugees has been at the heart of Pope Francis’ concern as pope. Soon after his election in 2013, he went to the Italian island of Lampedusa to pray for migrants who had drowned attempting to reach Europe and to meet those who made it safely and those who have welcomed them.

Meeting 11 January with ambassadors representing their nations at the Vatican, the pope made his concern for migrants and migration the key focus of his speech. While acknowledging the social and political challenges that come with welcoming migrants, Pope Francis insisted on the human and religious obligation to care for those forced to flee in search of safety or a dignified life.

The pope’s concern for refugees is not just talk.

In September, the Vatican’s St. Anne parish welcomed a family of four from Damascus, Syria, providing an apartment, food and other assistance because under Italian law, asylum seekers are not allowed to work for the first six months they are in the country. The parish of St. Peter’s Basilica is hosting Eritrean refugees. A woman, whose husband is missing, gave birth to her fifth child shortly after arriving in Rome. She, the newborn and two of her other children are living in a Vatican apartment; she hopes soon to embrace her other two children, who are now in a refugee camp in awaiting the completion of family reunification procedures. In the meantime, the woman is hosting another Eritrean woman and her child in the apartment.

Read more.



14 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, officials describe efforts to bring humanitarian relief to the starving city of Madaya in Syria. (video: Rome Reports)

Aid begins arriving in besieged Syrian city of Madaya (CNN) A second aid convoy is on the way to the besieged Syrian city of Madaya, where numerous people are reportedly starving, according to a U.N. source in the convoy. The new convoy is made up of about 50 trucks carrying wheat flour, medicine, blankets and winter clothes, the source said early Thursday. The source said the convoy hopes to reach Madaya shortly...

Dramatic conditions of Iraqi and Syrian children (L’Osservatore Romano) Women and children are the primary victims of the horrors that accompany the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, which are mostly the work of the so-called Islamic State. British daily newspaper, Daily Mail, reports the testimony of several young people who have escaped the Jihadist group in northern Iraq. These witnesses stated that they were trained — brain-washed — to sacrifice themselves as suicide bombers...

Watchdog group: 2015 “worst year” for Christian persecution (RNS) With North Korea leading the way and Islamic extremism rapidly expanding, 2015 was the “worst year in modern history for Christian persecution,” according to a group tracking this issue. Iraq is in second place on Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. It’s the first of 35 countries on the list where Islamic extremism “has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing,” said the report, released Wednesday...

Update on refugee families being housed at Vatican parishes (Vatican Radio) Two refugee families are now being hosted by the two parishes of the Vatican, in response to the 6 September 2015, Angelus appeal of Pope Francis for every parish in Europe to welcome a family of refugees...

Meeting street children is like meeting Christ (Fides) Meeting, visiting, assisting street children means encountering Christ: this is what a group of young Catholics in Nagpur, a city in central India experienced when they went in search of street children. Pushpa Singh, one of the young people involved, told Fides: “At Epiphany, the Wise Men make their way to the Child Jesus. For us it was the same experience. We saw the Child Jesus in the poor, marginalized, abandoned children”...

Closed Catholic church in Pennsylvania reopens as Russian Orthodox (Wilkes Barre Times Leader) After being vacant for more than three years, the former St. Rocco’s Roman Catholic Church on the corner of Tompkins and West Oak streets has reopened its doors as St. Irene Russian Orthodox Outside Church of Russia. The church plans to open more doors in the community by purchasing homes in the Greater Pittston area for parishioners in need...



13 January 2016
Greg Kandra




The Rev. Joaqim Unfal is the sole monk residing at Mar Evgin Monastery in Tur Abdin, Turkey. Learn more about Syriac Christians returning to their homeland in Coming Home in the
Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)








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