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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
15 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2010 photo, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej arrives to celebrate a liturgy in Belgrade, Serbia, following his election. (photo: /Ivan Milutinovic, Reuters)

Serbian Orthodox Church likely to back government on Kosovo deal (Eurasia Review) At its forthcoming annual congress, the Serbian Orthodox Church is expected to discuss the EU-brokered deal with Kosovo and support the government on the issue, experts believe. Serbian Orthodox Church leaders will decide the religious body’s stance on Kosovo this month at the annual session of its governing body, the Holy Synod, predicted Zivica Tucic, an expert on religion in Serbia. “The Church will try to find an acceptable solution for the Kosovo issue,” Tucic told BIRN. Tucic said that one of the signs suggesting that the church would back the government on the issue was the reaction of church leader Patriarch Irinej to the criticism of the deal from some bishops…

Human Rights Watch alleges rebel atrocities in Syria (Los Angeles Times) Gruesome video footage purportedly showing a Syrian rebel commander mutilating the corpse of a dead soldier while shouting sectarian insults has drawn condemnation from Human Rights Watch and focused renewed attention on battlefield atrocities in Syria. The video appears to be further dramatic evidence of how Syria’s more than two-year civil war may be disintegrating into a sectarian bloodbath…

Israeli police attack Coptic Orthodox bishop in Jerusalem (Ahram Online) Israeli newspaper Maariv published a video clip on Monday showing an attack by Israeli police on Coptic Orthodox Bishop Anthasius of Ramallah in Jerusalem during Easter celebrations last week. In an interview with the newspaper, Anthasius said that Israeli police had attacked him in the street after he had tried to pass through an Israeli military checkpoint. In the video, the 84-year-old bishop can be seen being attacked by policemen. “They treated me like a dog,” the bishop told the Israeli newspaper. Israeli police subsequently issued a formal apology to both Egypt and Bishop Anthasius for last week’s incident…

Officials say Iraq bombings kill 10, wound 21 (Daily Star Lebanon) Bombings in Iraq, including two car bombs in the northern city of Kirkuk, killed 10 people and wounded 21 others on Wednesday, security and medical officials said. The first bombing in Kirkuk was the deadliest of the attacks, killing eight people and wounding eight, while a second car bomb exploded nearby, wounding seven more, officials said. Violence in Iraq has fallen from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common, killing more than 200 people in each of the first four months of this year…

Return to Iqrit: the rebirth of a Palestinian village (The Guardian) On a breezy hilltop in sight of the Lebanese border, a village last populated 65 years ago is being reclaimed from the dead for the living. Vegetables and herbs have been planted amid the rubble; a couple of donkeys graze on spring grass; traditional food is cooked and eaten in a makeshift structure next to the Church of Our Lady, where mass is celebrated for up to 200 worshippers on the first Saturday of every month. This is Iqrit, a Palestinian Christian village in northern Galilee, whose inhabitants left in the bitter war that followed the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948, and who have never been permitted to return to their land and razed homes. But in recent months, a group of young men, grandsons of Iqrit’s original residents, have moved back in an attempt to reclaim and rebuild the village…



Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War Palestine Coptic Orthodox Church Serbian Orthodox Church

14 May 2013
Greg Kandra




Destroyed buildings are seen in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria, on 29 April. The Syriac Catholic patriarch said events in Syria were the result of Western nations carrying out a geopolitical strategy “to split Syria and other countries” in the Middle East. (photo: CNS/George Ourfalian, Reuters)

Patriarch: Crisis in Syria is part of Western strategy (CNS) The Syriac Catholic patriarch said events in Syria were the result of Western nations carrying out a geopolitical strategy “to split Syria and other countries” in the Middle East. “It’s not a question of promoting democracy or pluralism as the West wants us to understand of its policies. This is a lie, this is hypocrisy,” Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan told Catholic News Service. Western nations did not heed warnings and so “bear responsibility for what is happening in Syria”…

Why Syrian quagmire threatens Turkey (CNN) Turkey’s tragic loss of at least 47 people in the car bombings in the border town of Reyhanli illustrates vividly that Turkey is not immune to the raging violence next door. Turkey has suffered similar, though far less deadly events in the past year, including Syria downing a Turkish jet, the killing of five Turks in cross-border artillery fire and a car bomb blast at a Turkey-Syria border crossing in February killing more than a dozen people. It is also hosting more than 400,000 Syrian refugees at a cost of $1.5 billion and counting. The United Nations estimates that number of refugees will triple by the end of this year. Moreover, it is a critical staging post and a logistical lifeline for opposition fighters against the leadership of Bashar al Assad in Damascus…

Christian village awaits arrival of Syrian army (Lebanon Daily Star) The advance of regime troops on the rebel stronghold of Qusair in central Syria has come as a relief for at least one village, mostly Christian, nestled on the shores of Lake Quttina. For the first time in eight months, the villagers of Ghassaniyeh do not have to make the risky trip across the lake to bring in fresh food and supplies…

Bishop says election of Pope Francis bodes well for Eastern Catholics (Catholic Sun) Bishop Gerald N. Dino of the Byzantine Holy Protection Eparchy of Phoenix said the election of Pope Francis bodes well for Eastern Catholics. “He’s very familiar with the Byzantine rite,” Bishop Dino said. “It means that we have a leader who understands a minority group within the church and respects those minorities”…

Why some Russian Orthodox believers are converting to other Christian faiths (Russia & India Report) Experts say there is a tendency in Russia, although a subtle one so far, of converting from the Russian Orthodox Church to other Christian denominations, such as Catholicism or Protestantism. This is because, they explain, believers often disagree with the position of the Russian Orthodox Church leaders on the most pressing problems of Russian society. In some cases, scandals around individual clergymen are to blame…



Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Turkey Russian Orthodox Church Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan

13 May 2013
Greg Kandra




A girl sits on a chair placed among rubble as she sells bread on a war-torn street in Deir al-Zor, Syria, on 9 May. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)

Syria blames Turkey’s government for car bombings (Reuters) Syria’s information minister has blamed Turkey’s government for deadly car bombings near the Syrian border and branded Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan a “murderer,” state-run Russian TV company RT reported on Monday. The bombings took place as prospects appeared to improve for diplomacy to try to end the war in Syria, after Moscow and Washington announced a joint effort to bring government and rebels to an international conference as soon as possible...

Pontifical yearbook shows Catholic population steady, boom in vocations to diaconate (Vatican Radio) The number of Catholics globally remains largely unchanged at 1.2 billion, rising only slightly higher than global population growth for the 2010/2011 period. The number of priests (religious and diocesan) has grown, largely thanks to a rise in vocations in Asia and Africa which has helped balance the continued decline in Europe (-9% in the last decade). The same cannot be said for the number of professed women religious with a downward trend registering a drop of 10% over the past decade. But, perhaps the most surprising statistic revealed in the 2013 Pontifical Yearbook Monday was the boom in vocations to the permanent diaconate, particularly in Europe and the US where numbers have increased by over 40% in the past decade...

Report says India has highest number of child deaths within first 24 hours of life (Fides) Every year a million children die within 24 hours of birth, and two million before the age of three months. This is what emerges in a recently published report by the NGO Save the Children, in which it also records the death of 287,000 women for causes related to maternity. The first day of a child’s life is the most dangerous, especially in India, where 309,300 infants die each year in the first 24 hours of life. In “Surviving the First Day: Status of Motherhood 2013,” the NGO ranks India as having the highest number of maternal deaths in the world, with 56,000 cases per year...

Patriarch: meeting between Francis and Tawadros II caused joy, hope for unity (Fides) “The meeting between the Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II caused joy especially among the very simple people. Now the hope is that the path on the way of unity can move forward with concrete and challenging steps.” This is what was reported to Fides Agency by His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts. The patriarch outlined the hopes in the Egyptian Catholic community from the recent meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch...

Russian Orthodox patriarch pays first visit to China (New Straits Times) The Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Sunday held a service in Beijing on his first ever visit to Communist-ruled China, during which he called for closer ties between the giant neighbours. Kirill, dressed in an ornate red and gold robe, held the service for about 300 people in a tent on the grounds of the Russian embassy in Beijing amid tight security, an AFP photographer witnessed. Chinese exercises strict control over religion, requiring followers to worship in state-approved churches...

Immigration fuels growth in Toronto’s Catholic Church (Catholic Register) Immigration hasn’t just transformed the Catholic Church in Toronto, it’s made the archdiocese of Toronto massively different from Catholic Canada outside the Greater Toronto Area. Two out of every five Catholics in Toronto were born outside the country, compared to just one in 10 Catholics who are immigrants in the rest of Canada...



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Turkey Coptic

10 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Tawadros II of Alexandria, pope and patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Pope Francis shake hands after exchanging gifts during a private audience in the pontiff’s library at the Vatican on 10 May. The pope told the Coptic leader that Christians are united in “ecumenism of suffering.” If you would like to learn more about Egypt’s largest Christian community, we profiled the Coptic Orthodox Church in the November 2005 issue of ONE. (photo: CNS/Andreas Solaro, pool via Reuters)

Pope Francis meets Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II (VIS) The visit of Tawadros II of Alexandria, pope and patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, “strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood that already exist between the See of Peter and the See of Mark, heir to an inestimable heritage of martyrs, theologians, holy monks and faithful disciples of Christ, who have borne witness to the Gospel from generation to generation, often in situations of great adversity,” said Pope Francis this morning. The pontiff remarked on the memorable meeting that took place, 40 years ago, between the predecessors of both, Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III, which united them “in an embrace of peace and fraternity, after centuries of mutual distance”…

Syrian refugees: your stories (The Guardian) GuardianWitness, a program seeking ground-level media from people the world over, has been running for nearly a month — including a section dedicated to the stories of Syrian refugees. Caroline Bannock, a coordinator for the program, notes: “It’s not an easy situation to document and many refugees can’t be identified, in case it puts family, left behind in Syria, in jeopardy. However, people who can, do want us to see what the situation is like for them and NGOs, aid agencies and individuals have been sharing images, text and video — when it’s safe to do so. … We have been very moved by the content that has been shared with us — so please do go and look at it, if you haven’t already…”

Saturday an international day of prayer for peace (Fides) On Saturday, 11 May, Syrian Christians of all churches and ecclesial communities have organized a day of prayer to “pray to God to grant mercy to Syria and to put an end to the violence.” The appeal to pray for Syria has been extended to Christians throughout the world. “It is too risky to move in combat areas. We will have to limit ourselves to local meetings throughout the country, in homes, in meeting places and in churches,” said the text of the appeal, published on the internet. There are four prayer intentions: the return of peace, the liberation of all hostages, the care of children traumatized by war and humanitarian relief to all refugees…

For first time, Israeli police protect women praying at Western Wall (Washington Post) Israeli police with metal barriers and human chains on Friday held back thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters who tried to prevent a Jewish women’s group from praying at a key holy site, the first time police have come down on the side of the women and not the protesters. The switch followed a court order backing the right of the women to pray at the Western Wall in the Old City with practices Orthodox Jews insist are the role of men alone…

Patriarch Kirill begins visit to China (Asianews.it) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill arrived today in Beijing, the first leg of his official visit to China, which ends 15 June. In the Chinese capital, “The head of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet with government leaders in China, leaders of religious groups, and also with the Chinese officials responsible for religious affairs,” the Patriarchate Press Service said…



Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War Coptic Orthodox Church Roma

7 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this August 2012 photo, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Polish Archbishop Jozef Michalik, president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Poland, sign a joint message of reconciliation during ceremony at Royal Castle in Warsaw. (photo: CNS/Kacper Pempel, Reuters)

Patriarch Kirill has high hopes for unity with the Catholic Church (Interfax) “We are open to dialogue, cooperation and development of such interaction, and we have no indication that the incumbent Pope is not open to the same,” said Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. “The time of our disorder and confusion in assessing socially important problems should end,” he said…

U.N. investigator suggests Syrian rebels may have used chemical weapons (Christian Science Monitor) The leader of the United Nations investigation into possible chemical weapon use in Syria said yesterday that witness and victim testimonies indicate that Syrian rebels likely used chemical weapons such as the nerve gas sarin. The commission she leads, however, tempered her comments with a statement today announcing that it had not yet reached “conclusive findings.” Rebel forces denied the claims…

Palestinian Christians struggle under occupation (Al Monitor) “To be a Christian from the land of Jesus Christ is a blessing that not many can claim to share. But this blessing brings with it a daily struggle to preserve our traditions and uphold Christian practices. Faith has not disappeared, hope still guides our lives, but the lack of response to our plight makes many in our community wonder whether the world really cares about us.” Father Johnny Abu Khalil, a Catholic priest from Nablus, recounts the challenges faced by Palestinian Christians…

No justice for Christian victims of Orissa massacres (Fides) Five years after the anti-Christian massacres that shocked Kandhamal district in the Indian state of Orissa, justice remains unserved. In the “pogrom” of 2008, over 400 villages were “cleansed” of all Christians. More than 5,600 houses and 296 churches were burned. There were many human casualties, and 56,000 men, women and children became homeless. As Catholic activist John Dayal reports to Fides, the investigation was carried out late and in a superficial manner…

Gunman attacks Armenian church in Istanbul (panorama.am) An unknown assailant opened fire into the air outside a small Armenian church in Istanbul on Sunday while an Orthodox sermon was being held inside, according to Turkish media…

U.N. peacekeepers seized near Syrian border (Al Jazeera) Four United Nations peacekeepers are being held in the ceasefire line between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, where neither Israeli nor Syrian forces can operate. Josephine Guerrero, spokeswoman for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), said on Tuesday the four were “detained today by an unidentified armed group while they were patrolling” near Al Jamlah in the so-called Area of Limitation…



Tags: Middle East Christians Armenia United Nations Palestinians Patriarch Kirill

6 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this video, Father Thomas Rosica interviews Ukrainian Greek Catholic Major Archbishop Shevchuck during his recent visit to Canada. Before being elected head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on 23 March 2011, Archbishop Shevchuk served as bishop of the Eparchy of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he considered Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — a mentor. (video: Salt + Light TV)

Witness: Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuck (Salt + Light TV) The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, having long suffered under Communist persecution, flourished once the Iron Curtain finally fell. The strength of this Eastern-rite church extends to the growing Ukrainian diaspora, particularly in Canada. In 2011, when the Ukrainian bishops needed to elect a new leader for their growing church, they turned to the youngest member from among their ranks: Sviatoslav Shevchuk, then only 40 years old. Father Thomas Rosica sat down with Archbishop Shevchuck during his recent visit to Canada…

Salesians ‘deplore’ Israel’s decision to proceed with separation wall (Vatican Radio) The Salesian province of the Middle East issued a press release Friday saying it “strongly deplores the verdict” of an Israeli tribunal, which has upheld the completion of a separation wall that will cut off a Salesian convent from direct access to its agricultural land and the community it serves. The lives within two Salesian monasteries a few miles from Bethlehem and the people of the nearby Palestinian community of Beit Jala will change dramatically once a nearly 20-foot concrete separation wall is completed as planned. The Salesians recently lost their seven-year battle to stop Israeli authorities from building of the wall through their property…

Young Iraqi Christians organize markets to pay for World Youth Day trip (Fides) On 1 May, at the Chaldean Church of St. Joseph in Baghdad, young Christians organized an open-air market in order to find funds to support the expenses of the trip to Rio de Janeiro, where they hope to travel in July to participate in the next World Youth Day. The original fund-raising initiative could represent a pilot project to be re-launched in other churches scattered throughout the country. On the pavilions of the small fair, which saw right from the beginning a strong turnout of buyers, one could find groceries, clothes and electronic products…

Israel seeks de-escalation after launching airstrike on Syria (Christian Science Monitor) A day after it launched an airstrike outside of Damascus, killing scores of Syrian soldiers, Israel sought to play down the attack as a strike against regime-ally Hezbollah, not President Bashar al Assad. Reuters reports that Israel has made several soothing overtures to its war-racked northern neighbor after launching airstrikes in Syria on Friday and Sunday. Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidante of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Israeli radio on Monday that Mr. Netanyahu aimed to avoid “an increase in tension with Syria by making clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime”…

Bishop Audo: Easter in the tears of our Orthodox brothers (Fides) Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo Antoine Audo describes the celebration of Easter in Syria: “They sang ‘Christ is risen,’ and while repeating those words of joy and victory, they all had tears in their eyes. All their prayers mingled with their tears.” In addition to the suffering the civil war inflicts on all the people, there is also apprehension for the archbishops who are in the hands of unidentified kidnappers…

U.N.: No clear proof of Syrian chemical weapons (Al Jazeera) A United Nations team of investigators into rights abuses in Syria has stressed there is no conclusive proof of either side in the conflict using chemical weapons, despite a team member’s claims to the contrary. “The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict,” the commission said in a statement on Monday…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk Separation Barrier

3 May 2013
Greg Kandra




Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphram Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, Archdiocese of the Eastern United States, is greeted by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York at the end of Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on 2 May. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Cardinal Dolan prays for kidnapped Orthodox clergy (CNS) Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan challenged all in attendance to hold onto hope and to pray for the safety and well-being of two Orthodox archbishops kidnapped in Syria in late April while carrying out a humanitarian mission. “Our prayers are singularly fervent this spring morning as I invite all of us to unite in supplication,” Cardinal Dolan said during Mass on 2 May in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo…

Pope meets president of Lebanon (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis expressed hopes for the formation of a new government in Lebanon Friday “that will have to face the important challenges in the national arena as well as in the international sphere.” This is according to a statement released by the Secretariat of State following the Holy Father’s private audience with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman…

Vatican sends annual message to Buddhists (VIS) Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.I., respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, signed the message that, on the occasion of the feast of Vesakh, the dicastery annually sends to the followers of Buddhism. Vesakh is a major Buddhist holy day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha. According to tradition, the historical Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and passed away during the full moon of the month of May, thus Vesakh is a mobile feast, which this year falls on 24 or 25 May, depending on the country it is celebrated in. On those days, Buddhists visit local temples to offer the monks food and to hear the teachings of the Buddha, taking special care to meditate and to observe the eight precepts of Buddhism. This year’s message is entitled: “Christians and Buddhists: Loving, Defending, and Promoting Human Life”…

Russian Orthodox observe Holy Friday (Voice of Russia) Orthodox Christians are observing Holy Friday, the most sorrowful date of the Christian calendar commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. On this day, Orthodox believers observe a particularly rigorous period of fasting in commemoration of Jesus’ sufferings and his death on the cross. They abstain from every kind of food subsisting on bread and water. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will lead Great Vespers with the rank of removal of the shroud and matins with the rank of burials at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow…

Historic Alaskan village destroyed by fire (OCA.org) In a report dated 30 April 2013, KTUU Channel 2 News announced that the abandoned Belkofski village on the Alaska Peninsula had been destroyed by fire. Founded in 1824 by the Russian-American Company, Belkofski was home to Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. The parish’s first church building was erected in 1843. In 1880, a new church was constructed. The structure, which had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, subsequently collapsed. What was left of the church burned in the fire, along with the parish cemetery…



Tags: Pope Francis Violence against Christians Russian Orthodox Church Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

2 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this video, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III celebrates Holy Thursday by washing the feet of his clergy in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City. (video: THV 11)

Greek Orthodox patriarch washes the feet of bishops (THV 11) Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III washed the feet of 12 of his clergymen in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday, 2 May, in a traditional ceremony that takes place three days ahead of Easter. According to Christian faith, Jesus washed the feet of his twelve disciples prior to the Last Supper before he was crucified. Christian churches commemorate this event as part of Easter Holy Week celebrations, with Orthodox ceremonies taking place in accordance to the Eastern (Julian) calendar…

A prayer for the Chaldean Synod (Fides) The first Synod of the Chaldean Church convened by the new Patriarch Louis Raphael, who was elected last January 31, will begin in Baghdad on 5 June. The agenda of the synodal assembly includes challenging topics, including the appointment of bishops in several Chaldean bishoprics left vacant in the Middle East and Western countries, the formation of priests, the final draft of a law of the Chaldean Church to be submitted to the consent of the Apostolic See, updating and harmonization of the liturgical rites celebrated unevenly in the various dioceses and the study of concrete measures to curb the phenomenon of emigration and encourage Christians to remain in — or return to — their homeland…

An interview with a Jesuit ecumenist (Catholic World Report) Catholic World Report recently asked Archimandrite Robert Taft, S.J., for his perspective on current Orthodox-Catholic relations. Father Taft has devoted his life to preserving the liturgical treasury of the East and building bridges between Orthodox and Catholic Christians, and describes a vision of Catholic-Orthodox communion: “what it would look like is not a ‘reunion’ with [Orthodox churches] ‘returning to Rome,’ to which they never belonged anyway; nor us being incorporated by them, since we are all ancient apostolic ‘sister churches’ with a valid episcopate and priesthood and the full panoply of sacraments needed to minister salvation to our respective faithful…”

Turkey investigates use of chemical weapons in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) Turkey is testing blood samples taken from Syrian casualties brought over the border from fighting in recent days to determine whether they were victims of a chemical weapons attack, local government and health officials said on Wednesday. The samples were sent to Turkey’s forensic medicine institute after several Syrians with breathing difficulties were brought to a Turkish hospital on Monday in the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province along the Syrian border. “We are taking the necessary precautions as we have received unconfirmed information on the use of chemical weapons,” Reyhanli Mayor Huseyin Sanverdi told Reuters…

Lebanon border region caught in Syrian conflict (L.A. Times) Kidnapping, smuggling and tribal feuds have long been a reality of the Lebanese landscape, but the conflict next door between the longtime Shiite-linked government of President Bashar al Assad and fragmented, largely Sunni, opposition forces has upped the ante. These days, nothing seems to transpire in northern Lebanon without the Syrian conflict coloring the exchange…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Chaldean Church Orthodox Church of the Holy Sepulchre

1 May 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this December 2012 photo, Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch, accompanied by Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch, lights a candle upon his arrival to the Orthodox patriarchate in Damascus, Syria. (photo: CNS/Khaled al Hariri, Reuters)

Syrian patriarch: Violence won’t drive Orthodox away (Pravoslavie.ru) Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Youhanna X has urged the world community to end the violence in Syria and help free the two abducted Orthodox leaders of Aleppo. “I take this opportunity to extend, on your behalf, in the motherlands and abroad, an appeal to the international community, urging it to do everything it can toward the release of hostages whose absence affects us deeply. … Since we are the children of the Resurrection, we are not afraid of whoever takes violence as a way to achieve his purpose. To be killed, or kidnapped, or to have our institutions destroyed, will not change our resolve to uphold our civil life and our coexistence … and to seek the reign of justice and rights in our homelands,” the patriarch said…

Pope Francis issues appeal against slave labor (Vatican Radio) Marking the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and World Labor Day this Wednesday, 1 May, Pope Francis launched an urgent appeal to Christians and men and women of good will worldwide to take decisive steps to end slave labor. “I would like to add a word about another particular work situation that concerns me: I am referring to what we could define as “slave labor”, the work that enslaves. How many people worldwide are victims of this type of slavery, in which the person is at the service of his or her work, while work should offer a service to people so they may have dignity. I ask my brothers and sisters in faith and all men and women of good will for a decisive choice to combat trafficking in persons, which includes slave labor.” Included are an audio report and a transcript of the Holy Father’s audience…

Child labor rising in Gaza (Al Monitor) Child labor has been on the rise due to growing poverty and unemployment among Gaza’s population, more than 80 percent of whose families, according to United Nations reports, depend on humanitarian aid. While it cannot be separated from the political situation and the Israeli occupation, most analysts trace it back to 2006, when Israel started its blockade policy, causing tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers who worked in Israel to lose their jobs due to an inability to commute. Representatives of Palestinian civil society organizations have consistently stressed the need to make every possible effort to curb the widening tide of this phenomenon. However, very few seem to be directly engaged in addressing the problem…

Could water bring Israelis and Palestinians together? (Christian Science Monitor) The Joint Water Committee (J.W.C.), an Israeli-Palestinian group set up in 1995 under the Oslo Accords, was never meant to be a permanent body for managing water resources. Like many other Oslo-era arrangements, it was intended as more of a temporary tent until the Palestinian house could be built. Some 17 years later, with no Palestinian state in sight, the troubled workings of the J.W.C. illustrate the difficulties Israelis and Palestinians face in piecing together a tenuous coexistence under an interim tent tattered by lack of trust. But despite the current challenges, better water management — perhaps more than any of the other five issues to be determined in final-status negotiations — holds the possibility for improved cooperation and trust-building, because the welfare of both peoples is linked by their dependence on this vital shared resource…

Iraq plans to launch satellite to aid water crisis (Al Monitor) As part of an effort to combat water shortages across the country, Iraq is working to build and launch a satellite before the end of the year. The satellite will allow close monitoring of desertification and freshwater reserve losses…



Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Children Israeli-Palestinian conflict Water

30 April 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis shares a light moment with Israeli President Shimon Peres during a private meeting at the Vatican on 30 April. Peres officially invited Pope Francis to Israel and left their meeting saying that “all the people of Israel” are expecting him. (photo: CNS/Ettore Ferrari, pool via Reuters)

Pope meets with Israeli president (Vatican Radio) Today in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis received in audience Israeli President Shimon Peres. President Peres went on to meet with Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States. During the cordial talks, the leaders discussed the political and social situation in the Middle East. A speedy resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians is hoped for, so that an agreement may be reached that respects the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples, thus decisively contributing to the peace and stability of the region…

Huge explosion rocks Damascus (Al Jazeera) A blast near Syria’s interior ministry has rocked the central Damascus district of Marjeh, killing 13 people and injuring over 70 others, state television said, just a day after the country’s prime minister survived a car bomb attack. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) gave a lower toll, saying nine people were killed in Tuesday’s blast. The group, which relies on a network of activists based in Syria, did not immediately provide details on those reported casualties, but warned that the number of casualties was expected to rise…

Car bombs across Iraq kill at least 22 (L.A. Times) Shiite-dominated areas in southern and central Iraq were rocked Monday by car bomb explosions that killed at least 22 people and fueled fears that the country is sliding into a civil war. The bombings Monday — particularly in the city of Amarah, which has largely avoided such attacks — appeared aimed at jarring the country’s Shiite majority. Car bombs also exploded in a market in the center of Mahmoudiya, just south of Baghdad; a factory area in the southern Shiite shrine city of Karbala; and a restaurant in Diwaniya, also in the south. With the country in crisis, the parliamentary speaker, Usama Nujaifi, called for the government to be dissolved and for a caretaker government to be formed ahead of early elections to save the country from civil war…

European bishops meet to analyze Christian-Muslim relations (VIS) The Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe will be meeting in London from 1-3 May to discuss Christian-Muslim relations. Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux, will chair the meeting. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue will be a keynote speaker…

Pope Francis to meet with Coptic pope (Fides) The next visit of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II to Pope Francis, scheduled for Saturday, 11 May, “could have important and positive results,” says Coptic Catholic Bishop Fahim Awad Hanna. “I also hope that we can resume the thread of theological dialogue and really start to walk towards full communion.” The event will occur 40 years after the meeting in Rome between Pope Paul VI and Shenouda III, the previous Coptic pope. On that occasion a theological dialogue between the two Churches began which in 1988 led to an agreement and a joint declaration on Christology that was to put an end to centuries of misunderstanding and mistrust…

Catholic Church in Ethiopia is a ‘small reality’ appreciated by all (Fides) “We are a small reality but our contribution to the social and spiritual life of the Country is appreciated by all,” says Father Hagos Hayish, secretary general of the Episcopal Conference of Ethiopia. “Catholics in Ethiopia represent about 1 percent of the population, [the rest belonging] to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church or to the Islamic religion,” explains Father Hayish. “The Catholic Church, however, is well regarded by both the population and the authorities for its social activities and its attitude of openness to all, Christians and Muslims.” To promote interfaith dialogue the Interfaith Council of Ethiopia has been created, in which the Catholic Church has been called to play an important role, a sign of respect and trust…



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Middle East Peace Process Ethiopian Catholic Church





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