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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
12 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria visits Coptic Pope Tawadros II on 4 September. To learn more about the respective churches they lead, see our profiles of the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Alexandria and All Africa and the Coptic Orthodox Church. (photo: The Coptic Orthodox Church)

Pope Tawadros II resumes public catechesis (Fides) After suspending his public catechesis for ten weeks due to the clashes that rocked Egypt following Muhammad Morsi’s removal from the presidency, Coptic Pope Tawadros II yesterday returned to host the traditional Wednesday audience in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo. “The world is saved because it is in God’s hands, and Egypt has a special place in his heart,” he said. “Let us not allow hatred and hostility to penetrate our hearts…”

Iraq’s cold war leaves country on edge (Christian Science Monitor) During Iraq’s brutal civil war, which began in 2006 and dragged on for more than two years, Shiites and Sunnis squared off, leaving tens of thousands dead. The rival factions never completely reconciled. During last spring’s election, Shiite politician and cleric Muqtada al Sadr allied with Sunni political blocs to successfully challenge Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s ruling party — a brief glimmer of hope that Iraq was edging toward reconciliation. But several months later and after levels of violence not seen since 2008, most Iraqis say the political union was more of a statement about both groups’ dislike of Mr. Maliki than an actual desire to work with one another. Now, many Iraqis fear that their civil war never really ended — instead, it just morphed into a cold war that leaves the nation vulnerable to a renewal of sectarian violence. The Syrian war next door to Iraq has also helped to drudge up a number of dormant sectarian issues…

Battle for Syria Christian town of Maaloula continues (BBC) A BBC correspondent in Syria has said the battle for an ancient Christian town is continuing, despite reports that government forces had retaken it. Jeremy Bowen said that a heavy gunfight with rebels was continuing in Maaloula, with smoke rising into the sky. He added that he had not seen evidence confirming religious sites had been damaged by Al Qaeda-linked jihadists…

Syrian opposition fails to reassure Syrian Christians (Al Monitor) Syrian Christians as a whole have not thrown their support behind either side in the Syrian war. Nevertheless, Christians in Syria have been subjected to a lot of pressure by both the regime and the opposition, which failed to give them — or any religious or ethnic Syrian component — any assurances or support. Some armed groups have accused the church of supporting the regime. And many of the opposition’s statements and video clips do not reassure minorities that they will be participants in the new Syria…

First Syrian refugees land in Germany (Der Spiegel) Some are injured, some are traumatized, but all have been forced to flee. A million Syrians have left their country because of the civil war. Germany has agreed to offer temporary asylum to 5,000, and the first refugees took off for Hanover on Wednesday…

Maronite patriarch inaugurates church in Romania (Daily Star Lebanon) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter will visit Romania Thursday for meetings with senior Romanian officials and the inauguration of St. Charbel Church, the first Maronite parish in Eastern Europe. Patriarch Bechara Peter is also to hold meetings with members of the Lebanese community…



Tags: Iraq Refugees Syrian Civil War Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II

11 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III, center right with red stole, celebrates the funeral liturgy of three men in Damascus, Syria, on 10 September. The men were killed during a raid by Syrian opposition fighters on the village of Maaloula northeast of Damascus on 7 September. (photo: CNS/Khaled al Hariri, Reuters)

Patriarch Gregory III: ‘Great leaders … know how to make peace’ (Fides) “The greatness of a leader is to seek peace and make peace, not to wage war and create destruction. A superpower is such if it is a power of peace,” says Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III. “The logic of violence is never the logic of wise people. … We call on all political leaders of the world to return to the Word of Jesus in the Gospel; this is enough to build a world of civilization, liberty, dignity, love and mercy…”

U.S.C.C.B. calls for negotiation, humanitarian assistance In Syria (U.S.C.C.B.) The Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an urgent call for a political solution to the crisis in Syria. The bishops issued the statement on the first day of their 10-11 September Administrative Committee meeting at the U.S.C.C.B. headquarters in Washington. The appeal followed a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on September 7, which had been called for by Pope Francis. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, U.S.C.C.B. president, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.C.C.B. International Justice and Peace chairman, wrote letters to President Obama and Congress, respectively, also urging that the United States not resort to military action…

Syria: Holy Land Bishop on fears of Christians in region (Vatican Radio) William Shomali, the auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories, has been speaking out about possible foreign intervention in Syria. Bishop William says Christians across the Middle East do not want an international military strike on the regime of Bashar al Assad, fearing that regional chaos would ensue. Christians — and many Muslims, he suggests — are afraid fanatical elements within the rebel opposition would seek retaliation against those they see as supporters of the regime, while Christians have largely tried to stay neutral…

Patriarch Kirill: U.S. should heed unanimous religious leaders (Fides) On the eve of the 12th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill yesterday sent a message to President Barack Obama urging him to shelve plans for a military attack against Assad’s regime and to focus on diplomatic paths to stop the Syrian conflict, as has been suggested in recent days by leaders of all religious communities, starting with Pope Francis…

Syrian Christians pack passports fearing Islamist onslaught (Bloomberg) As the United States Congress debates a possible strike against Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Christians in and around Damascus say they face a double crisis. Like many other Damascenes, they fear an attack would lead to an escalation in the civil war rather than put an end to it, while they are also concerned about becoming a lightning rod for Muslim radicals. Salim Eid, a Christian who lives in an area of Homs under the control of Assad’s army, said the events in Maaloula reminded him of how his brother and other family members were forced by the rebels to vacate their homes and farms in Umm Sharshouh village in Homs Province earlier this year. Bishop George Abu Zakham said he was kicked out of his home in Homs last year along with about 85,000 Christians by extremist rebels. He said Christians in suburbs around Damascus were also displaced in the same way…

Arab world’s religious leaders urge common ground at Jordan conference (al-shorfa.com) Some 70 high-ranking church leaders and Muslim clerics from across the region and world met in Jordan last week to promote common ground among followers of the various religions and sects in the Middle East. Titled “Challenges facing Arab Christians,” the 3-4 September conference urged tolerance, peace and moderation and sought to address challenges facing Christians in the region as well as highlight their important contribution to Arab and Islamic civilizations. Participants included Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Gregory III — a Syrian national — who called for the organization of a global campaign to urge peace in Syria, and Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church of Babylon Mar Louis Raphael I, who spoke to the current situation in Iraq…



Tags: Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Patriarch Kirill Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch U.S.C.C.B.

10 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian-American demonstrators march against U.S. military intervention in Syria in front of the White House in Washington, on 9 September. (photo: CNS/Jim Bourg, Reuters)

Syria ceding chemical arms may halt U.S. attack (New York Times) President Obama on Monday tentatively embraced a Russian diplomatic proposal to avert a United States military strike on Syria by having international monitors take control of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons. Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said early Monday that Syria could avoid an attack by putting its chemical weapons in the hands of monitors and agreeing to ultimately eliminate its massive arsenal of poison gas. It was an idea that was quickly praised by top officials in Syria and some lawmakers in the United States. “It’s possible,” Mr. Obama said on CNN of the Russian proposal, “if it’s real.” Secretary of State John Kerry opened the door to the Russian idea when he told a reporter at a news conference earlier on Monday that President Bashar al Assad of Syria could avoid strikes by agreeing to give up his chemical weapons, although Mr. Kerry doubted the plan was feasible…

Syrian army moves to retake Maaloula (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian troops launched an offensive Monday against rebel-held positions on hills overlooking a mainly Christian village as they moved to regain control of the ancient community near Damascus, activists said. The battle for Maaloula has stoked fears among Syrian Christians that the alternative to Assad’s regime — which is made up mostly of Alawites, followers of a variant of Shiite Islam — would not tolerate minority religions. Such concerns have helped Assad retain the support of large chunks of Syria’s minority communities, including Christians, Alawites, Druze and ethnic Kurds. Most of the rebels and their supporters are Sunni Muslims…

Christians, Muslims join Pope Francis in praying for peace in Syria (CNS) At the Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane, the stone that traditionally has represented Jesus’ agony was scattered with notes in different languages — all asking for peace in Syria. Christian leaders of the Holy Land gathered there on 7 September, as Christians and Muslims all over the world prayed with Pope Francis for Syria. In the West Bank and in Turkey, in Canada and the United States people gathered, responding to the papal call for prayer and fasting…

Pope to meet with refugees (Vatican Radio) Today, the Holy Father will make a private visit to the Centro Astalli in Rome, the Italian seat of the Jesuit Refugee Service. This center currently admits 700 refugees from different parts of the world, among whom there are some Syrian families forced to flee their homes due to the current conflict. Francis will meet with 300 refugees in the Church of Jesus in Rome, where he will visit the tomb of Father Pedro Arrupe, who founded the Jesuit Refugee Service in 1981. The Holy Father will then transfer to the dining hall of the center, where he will meet with another 400 refugees…

Islamists seize town in southern Egypt and attack Christians (New York Times) Dalga, a town of about 120,000 people, including 20,000 Christians, has been outside government control since hard-line Islamist supporters of Mr. Morsi drove out the police and occupied the police station on the day the Egyptian military removed Mr. Morsi. The Islamists’ actions were part of a wave of attacks in the province of Minya that targeted Christians, their homes and their businesses. Since then, the militants have imposed their grip on Dalga, twice driving off attempts by the army to send in armored personnel carriers, fending them off with gunfire. The takeover of Dalga has been disastrous for Christians in the town…

Malankara Orthodox Syrian leader urges peace (Catholicatenews.in) “War is not the answer,” said Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, primate of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, in a recent statement. He continued to say that the way forward is through diplomacy and dialogue rather than unilateral military actions, and that everyone should pray specially and wholeheartedly for peace to be re-established in disturbed regions such as Egypt and Syria…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Syrian Civil War United States Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

9 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2008 photo, a man writes on a board during class at the Aramaic Language Institute in Maaloula, Syria, where local residents can study the writing and grammar of their ancestral language. (photo: CNS/Brooke Anderson)

Syrian war makes sudden appearance at convent in iconic Christian town (Washington Post) High in the mountains above Damascus lies a town so remote that Syria’s war had passed it by, so untouched by time that its inhabitants still speak the language of Jesus. The violence ravaging the rest of Syria has finally caught up with Maaloula, renowned as the oldest Christian community in the world — and the last in which the same version of Aramaic that prevailed 2,000 years ago is the native tongue. On Sunday, Syrian rebels, including some affiliated with Al Qaeda, swept through Maaloula for the second time in four days, after an assault a few days earlier in which the last of its few thousand residents fled and the specter of unchecked violence threatened to convulse the iconic town…

Melkite patriarch issues appeal to save Maaloula (Fides) Melkite Patriarch Gregory III, lamenting what he calls “the great tragedy of this war,” has launched an urgent appeal “to the international community, to the conscience of the whole world, to save the small village of Maaloula, which is a very important Christian symbol in the history of Syria…”

A testimony from a Syrian monastery (L’Osservatore Romano) Sister Marta Luisa Fagnani, a member of a small community of Italian Trappist nuns in Syria, speaks to L’Osservatore Romano about remaining prayerful under the present conditions. “Prayer and fasting are like weapons to empty oneself of oneself and to try to be more reasonable, to make oneself listen to a deeper wisdom,” Sister Marta Luisa says. “Prayer is powerful, of that we are convinced. Otherwise, we would not have chosen this life…”

Christians and Hindus united in fasting and prayer for peace in Syria (Fides) Fasting and prayer for peace in Syria sees Christians and Hindus in India united. Bishop Felix Machado of Vasai, president of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, told Fides: “The pope’s appeal for a special day for peace in Syria was welcomed with joy and enthusiasm by Christians in India, and now has spread to the leaders and the Hindu communities. Some Hindu leaders called me to express solidarity and to ensure fasting and prayer in the Hindu temples…”

Pope: Waging war against evil means discarding violence (VIS) Pope Francis, following yesterday’s fast and prayer vigil for peace in Syria, the Middle East and all over the world, returned to the theme of peace during the Angelus at midday today. He commented on today’s Gospel reading in which Jesus states the condition for his disciples: to put nothing before their love for God, carrying their cross, and following Jesus. “At this moment in time, when we are praying intensely for peace, this Word of the Lord affects us profoundly, and fundamentally it says: ‘There’s a deeper war we must fight, all of us!’ It is the strong and brave decision to renounce evil and its seductions, and to choose good, fully prepared to pay personally — that is, following Christ, and taking up our cross! It is a profound war against evil! What is the point of fighting wars, many wars, if you are not capable of fighting this deeper war against evil? There’s no point!” the pope said…

Ecumenical patriarch meets with president of Estonia (The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) On 5 September Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople visited President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia to express his gratitude for their support of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Estonia, especially following the restoration of its status of autonomy by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1996. Afterward, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew responded to questions from the local media regarding the two Orthodox jurisdictions in Estonia, the situation in Syria, and other contemporary issues…



Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Estonia

6 September 2013
Greg Kandra




People walk near destroyed buildings and debris in Deir al-Zor, Syria, on 4 September.
(photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)


U.S. orders diplomats out of Lebanon (AP) The State Department on Friday ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon due to security concerns as the Obama administration and Congress debate military strikes on neighboring Syria. In a new travel warning for Lebanon, the department said it had instructed nonessential staffers to leave Beirut and urged private American citizens to depart Lebanon. The step had been under consideration since last week when President Barack Obama said he was contemplating military action against the Syrian government for its alleged chemical weapons attack last month that the administration said killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus. “The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains,” the department said...

Divisons remain over Syria at G20 summit (Vatican Radio) World leaders are continuing their discussions on the final day of the G20 Summit in St Petersburg, Russia. Divisions still remain on what sort of action to take on Syria. President Barack Obama told G20 leaders the United States has high confidence that Syrian forces used chemical weapons and underlined the need to uphold an international ban on the use of such weapons.But Russia, China and the EU are still opposed to a military solution...

Vatican’s Foreign Secretary meets with diplomats to discuss Syria (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Secretary for Foreign Relations Archbishop Dominque Mamberti has met with world ambassadors accredited to the Holy See to discuss Pope Francis’ initiative calling for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on Saturday 7 September. In a briefing for journalists about Thursday’s meeting, Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, denied “in the most complete manner” that Pope Francis had telephoned Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Fr. Lombardi was responding to reports in Italian media which he described as “devoid of foundation”...

Cardinal McCarrick: no strikes in Syria; don’t repeat mistakes of Iraq (CNS) Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, said he opposed U.S. military intervention in Syria, adding that he was “not in favor of going to war to make peace.” “We made the mistake in Iraq. I hope we don’t make the mistake again in Syria,” he told Catholic News Service 5 September after visiting some of the nearly half-million refugees who had fled to Jordan, Syria’s southern neighbor. When asked what was worst, either allow Syria to use chemical weapons and do nothing or go in with limited military strikes, he quickly responded: “Neither is the proper answer”...

Archbishop Pendergast heartened by aid projects in Ethiopia (Catholic Register) Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast returned from a recent visit to Ethiopia pleased with how money is being spent in projects being funded by Canadian Catholics. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace had launched campaigns to raise funds to avert food crises in both the Sahel Region and the Horn of Africa in recent years. Prendergast was part of the delegation formed so Canadian Catholics can see what is being done with their money. “Ethiopia was considered the safest option and, though (D&P) has had involvement there for many years, no one had visited,” he said...



5 September 2013
Greg Kandra




In this image from last March, U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, arrives for a prayer service with eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal O’Brien calls for prayers for Syria (CNS) As threats of military intervention against Syria escalate and the country’s future remains uncertain, a U.S. cardinal said that, no matter what transpires, prayer is urgently needed. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, said that “whatever happens, if there is going to be peace in Syria and anywhere, prayer has to be a part of it.” The cardinal spoke on 5 September during a Vatican news conference presenting the chivalric order’s consultative meeting that will see a revision of its statutes and its upcoming pilgrimage to Rome as part of the Year of Faith. The order, which has members in 35 countries, particularly in North America and Western Europe, supports the pastoral and educational work of the church in the Holy Land...

Pope seeks Putin’s support in stopping Syrian air strikes (Catholic Register) In an open letter to Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis has appealed to the Russian President and world leaders gathering in St. Petersburg for a G-20 Summit to find a non-military solution to the crisis in Syria. “To the leaders present, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” the Pope wrote. “Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community.” The Pope’s letter came as world leaders arrived for a two-day summit that was intended to focus on the world economy but now will be dominated by the looming threat of U.S. intervention in Syria. Congress will vote early next week on whether to support President Barack Obama’s call for air strikes on military targets in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack allegedly directed by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad that killed 1,429 people, including hundreds of children...

Syrian Christians say Western attack would make matters worse (NCR) Although President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are consulting their own legislatures before using force in Syria, there’s a constituency with far more at stake they might also poll that would likely deliver a resounding no: Syria’s Christians. Those Christians may be no fans of the regime of President Bashar Assad, but they generally prefer it to what they see as the likely alternative — rising Islamic fundamentalism and Iraq-style chaos, in which religious minorities such as themselves would be among the primary victims. “We heard a lot about democracy and freedom from the U.S. in Iraq, and we see now the results — how the country came to be destroyed,” said Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo in a recent interview. “The first to lose were the Christians of Iraq.” “We must say that, what the U.S. did in Iraq, we don’t want repeated in Syria,” Audo said...

Christian, Muslim leaders examine challenges of Arab Christians (CNS) For decades, Arab Christians have been fleeing the Holy Land and the rest of the Middle East in droves, mainly because of violence. Within the past two-and-a-half years, some 450,000 Christians are believed to be among the 2 million people who have fled the civil war in Syria, an ancient land of historic churches, the country where St. Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus. Some 70 high-ranking Arab church leaders, together with their Western counterparts, and Muslim clerics gathered in Amman for a meeting on 3-4 September aimed at tackling “the challenges of Arab Christians.” The Christian and Muslims leaders aimed to find a way to end the sectarian strife threatening their people and countries. “We must confront extremist trends,” Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, told the gathering. He said it was the duty of religious leaders and their communities to work jointly “to get the new generation to accept ‘the other,’” in order to “isolate these trends”...



4 September 2013
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees carry their belongings as they enter the Turkish Cilvegozu border gate on 4 September. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said there had been a near tenfold increase over the past 12 months in the number of refugees crossing Syria’s borders into Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon — to a daily average of nearly 5,000 people.
(photo: CNS/Umit Bektas, Reuters)


Pope Francis renews his appeal for peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Syria and throughout the world on Wednesday, once again inviting Christians of every denomination, believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will to take part in the worldwide fast and vigil of prayer and penance for peace, which he has called for 7 September, the vigil of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, whom we venerate as Queen of Peace. Many local Churches have already organized their own initiatives to mark the day...

Syrians face psychological trauma (Vatican Radio) Syrians caught up in the civil war face lasting psychological trauma, as well as violence and deprivation. Caritas Internationalis talked about the situation in Syria, and about the situation of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, in its annual report published last July. It also issued a statement last Friday calling for dialogue as the only possible solution to the Syrian crisis, and warning against military intervention...

Islam’s Grand Mufti of Syria welcomes pope’s call for prayer (Fides) In St. Peter’s Square or in the great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, spiritual leader of Sunni Islam, welcomes the Pope’s appeal and will be there praying and fasting for peace in his country. The Mufti sent, through the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus, an official letter to Pope Francis and is preparing to participate in the special pro-Syria day on 7 September, proposing to the Holy See to organize an interfaith meeting...

Rosh Hashana begins (Los Angeles Daily News) Sundown Wednesday signals the start of Rosh Hashana, the two-day holiday marking the Jewish New Year. Services ushering in the year 5774 on the Hebrew calendar will feature the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn. Rosh Hashana is a festive time when Jews gather with family members to reflect on the past year and the new one that is beginning. Celebrants also eat festive meals featuring apples dipped in honey, symbolic of the wishes for a sweet year. Rosh Hashana begins a 10-day period of penitence and contemplation leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Judaism’s most solemn and somber day. Jewish tradition holds that God records the fate of humankind in the Book of Life during the High Holy Days...



3 September 2013
Greg Kandra




In the video above from Sunday, Pope Francis asks during the Angelus for the international community to use all efforts to achieve peace in Syria. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis calls for a day of fasting, prayer for Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the entire Mideast region, and throughout the whole world to be held this coming Saturday, 7 September, 2013. Speaking ahead of the traditional Angelus prayer with pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square this Sunday, Pope Francis said, “On [Saturday] the 7th of September, here [in St Peter’s Square], from 7 PM until midnight, we will gather together in prayer, in a spirit of penitence, to ask from God this great gift [of peace] for the beloved Syrian nation and for all the situations of conflict and violence in the world.” The Holy Father also invited non-Catholic Christians and non-Christian believers to participate in ways they feel are appropriate...

Israel and U.S. carry out joint missile test (BBC) Israel has carried out a joint missile test with the U.S. in the Mediterranean, amid heightened tension over possible Western military strikes on Syria. The test came as the U.S. Congress prepared for its first public hearing on a possible military response to alleged chemical weapons use by Syria. Earlier, the UN confirmed that more than two million Syrians were now refugees from the 30-month conflict. More Syrians were now displaced than any other nationality, it said...

Pope names veteran diplomat as new Secretary of State (CNS) Although Pope Francis has not hesitated to break with convention during his brief pontificate, in appointing a seasoned member of the diplomatic corps as the top Vatican official, he resumed a long-standing tradition. The pope appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, a longtime official in the Vatican secretariat of state and nuncio to Venezuela since 2009, to be his secretary of state. On 15 October, Archbishop Parolin will succeed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78, who came to the post in 2006 after serving as archbishop of Genoa, Italy. The secretary of state is the pope’s highest-ranking collaborator, coordinating the work of the entire Roman Curia, overseeing the operation of the Vatican press office and newspaper, coordinating the preparation and publication of papal documents, and supervising the work of Vatican nuncios, in their relations with Catholic communities in individual countries and with national governments...

Orthodox synod calls for prayers for Egypt (OCA.org) On 30 August 2013, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon and the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, issued a statement calling for prayers for all who are suffering in the crisis currently gripping Egypt, and especially that nation’s minority Christian community...

Pope Francis meets with Jewish leaders, wishes them a happy new year (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday wished Jews around the world a sweet and peaceful year 5774, called for increased dialogue among the world’s religious communities and opposed fundamentalism in any faith. During his first private audience with an international Jewish leader since being elected Catholic pontiff in March, Francis asked World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder to convey his New Year message to Jewish communities world-wide and said he also needed a sweet year because of the important decisions lying ahead. Using the Hebrew words for ‘Happy New Year,’ Pope Francis wished a “Shana Tova” and asked the WJC to share that message with the Jewish people worldwide. Lauder presented the pope with a Kiddush cup and a honey cake.

Buddhists, Muslims, Christians attend ecumenical gathering in Ethiopia (Independent Catholic News) On Sunday 25 August, in Adigrat, in the northern region of Tigray, Ethiopia, 174 people — among them Buddhists, Muslims and Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians, gathered in the main hall of Bruh Tesfa Youth Development Centre, a youth centre run by the Missionaries of Africa, as they do once a year, to break “injera” in an ecumenical ambiance to celebrate the numerous successes of the centre together. At the gathering in Tigray, some of the attendees were members of staff, students who had successfully completed their end of year exams, nine university graduates that Bruh Tesfa has supported in their studies, and a couple of missionaries of Africa. But the vast majority were Christian Orthodox priests and deacons; and on the high table an Imam, a representative of the Orthodox bishop, the Orthodox dean of the Nihibi-Dibla area of Adigrat and the Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Adigrat sat next to each other...



30 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqis in Baghdad demonstrate on 30 August against the possibility of a U.S. military strike against the Syrian government. As speculation mounted about air strikes on Syria, Western church leaders warned military intervention could lead to an escalation of hostilities. (photo: CNS/Kareem Raheem, Reuters)

Syrian civilians in desperate need as threat of U.S. strike looms (Al Jazeera) Any escalation of the Syrian crisis in response to last week’s reported chemical weapons attack will aggravate civilian suffering, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday, as UNESCO warned that Syria’s rich cultural heritage is being destroyed and archaeological sites looted. Magne Barth, head of the I.C.R.C.’s delegation in Syria, said proposed Western military action would “likely trigger more displacement and add to humanitarian needs, which are already immense.” Some 2 million people have already fled Syria, including 1 million children. Human rights groups estimate that over 100,000 people have been killed since the war began. Areas plagued by heavy fighting — including the countryside around Damascus, eastern Aleppo and Deir Ezzor province — are also reeling from breakdowns of basic services such as water, electricity and garbage collection, the I.C.R.C. said…

Copts in West campaign against Muslim Brotherhood (AINA) Expatriate Copts in Western capitals launched campaigns to draw attention to the violence of the Muslim Brotherhood and to expose it as a terrorist organization, and to support the Egyptian army. “We are also angry with the bias of the western media, which still talks of the June 30 demonstrations as a coup … when over 33,000,000 citizens went out to the streets all over Egypt calling for the ousting of [Muhammad] Morsi,” said activist Mark Ebeid…

Perpetual adoration to beg for peace and stop terrorism (Fides) In the Monastery of St. James in Qarah, a city between Damascus and Homs, the resident community — an ecumenical community of 20 men and women religious of 8 nationalities and of different Christian denominations — dedicate their days to ceaseless prayer. The Rev. Daniel Maes, a Belgian Catholic priest and the community’s head, told Fides that today and in the coming days the priests and nuns would give life to a nightly Eucharistic adoration for the intention of peace…

‘We live in fear of more violence,’ says Indian Jesuit (AsiaNews) “When they march in front of our church during demonstrations organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, protesters are amazed that the building is still there,” the Rev. Bimal Kerketta told AsiaNews. Originally from India, the priest has been in Egypt for ten years working as the principal of the school run by the Jesuit Fathers in Minya. “Each day, they gather in front of the building to shout slogans of intimidation. I fear that tomorrow’s event will lead to fresh acts of violence…”

Bishop Hanna: We reject any aggression on Syria (SANA) Jerusalem’s citizens held a gathering at the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to express sympathy with Syria which is exposed to threats and pressures targeting its stance and national role. In a speech in front of the participants, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Atallah Hanna of Sebastia called on all honest people to reject the foreign intervention in Syria that is planned by western countries, particularly the United States…



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Monastery Indian Catholics Church of the Holy Sepulchre

29 August 2013
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets the king of Jordan and his wife this morning at the Vatican.
(photo: News.va/Reuters)


Pope Francis meets with King of Jordan (News.va) Pope Francis received this morning in audience the King of Jordan, Abdullah II and his wife Rania. “Welcome Majesty” were the words of welcome by Pope Francis. King Abdullah in turn welcomed the Holy Father saying that it was a pleasure and an honor to meet him, and he conveyed the greetings from his family and all the people of Jordan.” “It is an immense honor to meet you,” said also Queen Rania. King Abdullah began the conversation while stressing “the immense respect he has for what the Pope does and also for the Catholic Church.” During the cordial meeting, several topics of mutual interest were discussed, especially the promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East, the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and the question of Jerusalem. A special attention was paid to the plight faced by Syria. In this regard, it was reaffirmed that the voice of dialogue and negotiation between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international community, is the only option for ending the conflict and the violence which every day cause the loss of so many lives, especially among the population which is defenseless...

Obama says he “has not made a decision” on Syria military strike (CBS News) President Obama has not yet decided on U.S. action in Syria, where he says his administration has “concluded” President Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons in an attack against civilians last week near Damascus. “I have gotten options with our military, had extensive conversations with my national security team,” the president said Wednesday in an interview with “PBS News Hour.” “If the Assad regime used chemical weapons on his own people, then that would change some of our calculations — and the reason has to do with not only international norms but America’s own self-interest”...

Patriarch Gregorios III says U.S. strike on Syria would be “criminal” (ByzCath.org) Speaking from Damascus, the leader of the Melkite Catholic Church has told the Asia News service that an American-led assault on Syria would be “a criminal act, which will only reap more victims.” Patriarch Gregory III Laham said that the US and other Western nations have done nothing to stop an influx of “Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill.” Today the country desperately needs stability, he said, and “an armed attack against the government really has no sense at all”...

Christians restrain anger after church attacks in Egypt (AFP) Coptic Christians in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya are managing to restrain their anger despite a wave of devastating attacks on their churches and institutions by enraged Islamists. Tensions are still running high more than two weeks after the attacks in the city some 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of Cairo but there have been no calls for vengeance, nor any fiery rhetoric. “I say to the Islamists who attacked us that we are not afraid of their violence and their desire to exterminate the Copts,” said Botros Fahim Awad Hanna, the archbishop of Minya. “If we are not hitting back, it is not because we are afraid, but because we are sensible,” he said...

Conference on religious tolerance begins in Ethiopia (Sudan Tribune) A national conference aimed at promoting peaceful co-existence and tolerance among religious groups in Ethiopia kicked off on Tuesday in the capital, Addis Ababa. The conference, organised by the ministry of federal affairs and the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council is being attended by some 2,500 participants from across the country. The three-day conference is being held under the theme: “We shall strive to realise Ethiopia’s renaissance through strengthening the value of religious co-existence and respecting constitutional provisions”. In his opening speech, Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn called on the public to remain tolerant and to join hands in battling what he called acts of extremists...







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