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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
22 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis attends a meeting with the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic churches in Syria, Iraq and and other parts of the Middle East, at the Vatican on 21 November. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Eastern Catholic churches committed to interreligious dialogue (VIS) The Congregation for the Eastern Churches today concluded its plenary session, held from 19 to 22 November, which focused on the balance of conciliar ideas regarding the Eastern churches 50 years after Vatican Council II. Appreciation was expressed for the beauty of conciliar ecclesiology and the value of diversity in unity, also underlining that the recognition of the apostolic origin is a theological and juridical affirmation…

Strife fuels polio’s return to Middle East (Der Spiegel) Polio is making a comeback in a decimated part of Syria, but the delicate politics of the war are making vaccination campaigns difficult. “We have been warning them for more than a month that polio is spreading, but [the WHO] refuse[s] to send the vaccine!” said Dr. Khalid Milaji, a Syrian doctor and part of the Polio Control Task Force, a group trying to rein in a new polio epidemic. And yet, for weeks, WHO had blocked a vaccination campaign aimed at containing what is probably the most dangerous outbreak in years, in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. The United Nations organization even tried to stop the analysis of virus samples. The reason: WHO has a policy of cooperating exclusively with the government in Damascus, even in times of war, despite the fact that the central government has long since given up on Deir Ezzor…

As Syrian war grinds on, a new flock of refugees takes flight (New York Times) Syria’s pigeon collectors, hamemati as they are known back home, are among the most ardent in the Arab world. They do not breed or race them. They will trade and sell them, but mostly they just keep them as treasured pets. So it comes as little surprise that some have gone to great lengths to pursue their hobby in exile, especially since no one expects Syria’s two-and-a-half-year civil war to end anytime soon…

Jordanian official asks heads of churches to promote pilgrimages (Fides) Nidal Katamine, the Jordanian minister of tourism, has issued a strong appeal to the heads of local churches to promote and concretely support pilgrimages to holy sites in Jordan. The invitation was expressed during an ad hoc meeting convened in Amman, at the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Archepachy…

Ecumenical prayer across India for justice and reconciliation (Fides) Over 6,000 churches across India have come together to coordinate a simultaneous, ecumenical prayer service on 30 November. “We call on all Christians in the nation to join in this prayer to bless the nation,” said Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi, president of the organizing committee of prayer. The idea of a national ecumenical prayer was founded in 2012 by a meeting between different Indian Christians leaders…

A look at the West Bank’s Monastery of St. George (Huffington Post) Hiding in folds of the Judean Desert are ancient monasteries which, since ancient times, have given hermits the desolation of their dreams. Orthodox Christians — whether from Palestine, Greece, Russia, or Ethiopia — enliven these monasteries today, as they have since the sixth century. The dramatically set Monastery of St. George welcomes pilgrims and tourists alike. For 15 centuries, the faithful have ventured to this spot, hiked into the ravine, quenched their thirst, and nourished their soul…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Jordan Ecumenism Health Care Congregation for Eastern Churches

21 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem waves to the crowd upon his arrival for the International Day of Faith Mass on Mount Precipice in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth on 17 November. The Mass celebrated the Year of Faith declared by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2012. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Faithful from across the globe gather in Nazareth for Year of Faith end (CNS) Using Abraham from the Old Testament and Mary from the New Testament as role models, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal extolled the power of faith in a special Mass marking the conclusion of the Year of Faith. Some 7,000 local Catholics and international pilgrims gathered on Mount Precipice, overlooking the city of Nazareth, on 17 November. The patriarch said he was confident that the prayers and fasting for Syria called for by Pope Francis in September had contributed to the defeat of those advocating the option of war in that conflict. Though Christians in the Middle East have been a part of the great suffering of the region, they must remain strong, never losing faith, he said…

Pope Francis appeals for religious liberty in Middle East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed for universal respect of the basic right to religious liberty on Thursday, especially in lands where Christian communities constitute struggling minorities. The call came in the second of two related addresses to the patriarchs and major archbishops of Eastern churches, who are here in Rome this week for the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, and to the full body of participants in the assembly. In his remarks to the church heads, Pope Francis thanked his brothers for their visit, saying their coming together gives him the opportunity to renew his esteem for the spiritual patrimony of Eastern Christianity…

Ukrainian church leader discusses ‘ecumenism from the bottom up’ (Vatican Insider) “We cannot leave ecumenism in the hands of diplomats, politicians or theologians alone: we need to preach it in the parishes,” said His Beatitude Svjatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic. Of conditions in Ukraine, he says: “Our situation is a very complex one and our Christianity is very fragmented: only we Catholics are present here with three churches sui iuris. … We are trying to be witnesses of unity amongst ourselves above all. … Many Christians are tired of divisions and are asking for unity. There is a growing ecumenism from the bottom up…”

Flight of Iraq Christians resumes amid surge of unrest (France24) The patriarch of the Iraq-based Chaldean church, due to join other Middle Eastern Christian leaders at a meeting with Pope Francis this week, has urged Christians to stay and spoken out against Western countries offering visas to the rapidly shrinking minority. But many still say they have no choice, as their tenuous optimism after a brief improvement in security starting in 2008 has been dashed by a surge in bloodshed this year…

Turkey and Greece feud over Haghia Sophia (Business Standard) Turkey and Greece were locked today in a war of words over the possible conversion of Haghia Sophia, one of Istanbul’s most stunning landmarks, into a mosque. The feud over the 1,476-year-old World Heritage site is the latest to erupt between the two neighbors over religion. Greece reacted furiously to remarks by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc that he hoped to change the status of Haghia Sophia, which is now a museum. “Recurrent statements made by high ranking Turkish officials about converting Byzantine Christian churches into mosques are offending the religious feeling of millions of Christians,” the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement. But Turkey bluntly retorted today that it has “nothing to learn” from Greece about freedom of religion…



Tags: Pope Francis Iraqi Christians Christian Unity Patriarch Fouad Twal Haghia Sophia

20 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from May, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III receives Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, in the patriarchal residence in Raboué, north of Beirut. (photo: Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate)

Pope to meet with patriarchs of Eastern churches (Middle East Online) Pope Francis is meeting with the patriarchs of the Eastern churches to discuss the future of Christians in the Middle East, the Catholic Church’s role in Arab countries, its relations with the Orthodox Church and the problems of stability in the region. Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter I, Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis I, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III, Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III and Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX are expected at the three-day meeting that will focus on the Eastern churches in the 50 years since Vatican II. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, will lead the meeting…

Melkite patriarch urges Christians to stay in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) Patriarch Gregory III of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church has called on his fellow Christians to stay in Syria, despite the brutal conflict raging in the country. “I say to my children, stay in your country, the future will be difficult, but it will be better, God willing,” the Syrian patriarch told AFP. “I say to the European countries that want to help, help people … but don’t encourage people to emigrate…”

Carrying weapons the new norm for Iraqi youth (Al Monitor) Many young Iraqis have started carrying knives and other bladed weapons whenever they leave their homes, to the extent that it has become an almost indispensable part of their persons. That is how Barea Saeed, 18, from Baghdad described it to Al Monitor; he claims to feel weak and threatened whenever he finds himself without a knife in hand. While most young Iraqis claim that they have no intention of using the weapons in their possession except as a matter of last resort, the day-to-day reality of street stabbings and proliferating knife wounds tells a different story…

Iraqi refugees work to realize the American dream (Al Arabiya) The Iraqi diaspora is now dispersed throughout the world, with the United States accepting well over 90,000 Iraqi refugees since 2003. Many refugees sent to the United States are moving to Dearborn, Michigan, largely due to the fact that there is a large Lebanese community establishment there, as well as a “newer” Iraqi immigrant base that came to the United States in the early 1990s after the first Gulf War.

Attacks on Egyptian military could signal nascent insurgency (Christian Science Monitor) Ten Egyptian soldiers were killed after a car bomb exploded next to their bus in the northern Sinai Peninsula today. The number of attacks in the Sinai has increased since the July 3 military coup that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi, raising concerns that sporadic attacks will flare into a sustained insurgency. More than 100 Egyptian security forces have been killed in the Sinai since Mr. Morsi’s removal, according to the BBC…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Refugees Christian Unity Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch

19 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




During the Mass to conclude the Year of Faith, Pope Francis will hand out 35 hard copies of his first apostolic exhortation. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis to release first apostolic exhortation (Catholic News Agency) The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis will officially deliver his first apostolic exhortation to coincide with the end of the Year of Faith. During an 18 November press conference, the Holy See revealed that the title of the new document is “Evangelii Gaudium,” or “The Joy of the Gospel,” which will be publicly proclaimed by the pope during the closing Mass for the Year of Faith on Sunday, 24 November. The exhortation is a concluding document of last year’s Synod of Bishops, which centered on the theme of “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith…”

Lebanon blasts hit Iran’s embassy in Beirut (BBC) At least 22 people have been killed and more than 140 injured in a double suicide bombing outside the Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut. The Sunni jihadist group Abdullah Azzam Brigades said it was behind the attack. The Iranian ambassador in Beirut had earlier confirmed the death of Ebrahim Ansari, Iran’s cultural attaché, saying it was not clear if he had been in the embassy itself or one of the residential buildings nearby. However, the Iranian foreign ministry now says he is alive…

Suicide bombing in Beirut; sectarian violence plaguing the Middle East (Fides) Paul Karam, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, responded to the bombing in Beirut with the following statement: “Unfortunately, today’s bombing is not an isolated incident. Sectarian violence serves a purpose, and wants to set fire in order to destabilize the entire Middle East. For their delirious plots they do not have any qualms about killing children who go to school, or adults who go to work or return home. As Christians, we share the pain of our people, and we keep saying that in no way can similar acts of terror seek justification…”

Syria fighting in Qalamoun triggers new exodus to Lebanon (Washington Post) A new Syrian offensive in the mountainous terrain bordering Lebanon has triggered a fresh exodus of thousands of Syrians into a country already burdened by the largest number of refugees in the region, United Nations officials said Sunday. A thousand families sought shelter between Friday and Sunday in the eastern Lebanese town of Arsal after government forces attacked their villages in Syria, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees…

Aid workers struggle to get polio vaccine to Syrians (Christian Science Monitor) Syria was declared polio free in 1999. But with at least 10 recent confirmed cases of the paralyzing virus, international health workers are worried about a regional outbreak of the virus, particularly given the constant flow of Syrians to neighboring countries. Before the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, the vaccination rate in Syria was above 90 percent, bolstered by a relatively strong public health system. But after almost three years of violent and destructive civil conflict, that figure has dropped to 68 percent…

Coptic Orthodox Church names three new bishops (OCP Media Network) Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II installed three new bishops on Sunday, 17 November, at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. Two bishops will serve in Egypt; the third will preside over the newly formed Eparchy of New York and New England in the United States…



Tags: Syria Lebanon Pope Francis Refugees Beirut

18 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from September, a Syrian refugee boy flashes a peace sign along the border in Kilis, Turkey. (photo: CNS/Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)

Syrian Alawites hope for change in Turkey (Al Monitor) Syrian Alawite refugees face an added layer of difficulty in Turkey, particularly because they are Alawites. Common observations include issues such as different districts asking them to evacuate parks and mosques turning down their pleas for shelter. A frequent complaint by the refugees is that mosques charge them to use the bathroom. “Even Turkish Alawite doctors, teachers, translators and other civil servants assigned to attend the Syrian refugee camps have faced strong opposition from the camp’s Sunni residents,” said Bereket Kar, an Alawite activist and pundit from the Hatay province of southern Turkey…

Lebanon seeks to establish refugee camps in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Monday Lebanon is looking forward, with the help of the United Nations, to the establishment of Syrian refugee camps inside Syria. Mr. Mikati also revealed that Lebanese authorities have adopted “new measures” to make border control between Lebanon and Syria more effective. He did not give further details…

Syrian tragedy plays out on Jordan’s streets (Al Monitor) Of the 550,000 Syrians in Jordan, 430,000 reside in urban areas like Amman, Zarqa and Mafraq, or in villages near the borders. Middle-class citizens try to find a normal job, and the ones who can afford it — mainly richer entrepreneurs — move their businesses from Damascus to the Jordanian capital. Coming from the war, they all have a tale of loss. Most of the refugees who try to assimilate into Jordanian society have a hard time paying for rent, food and other living expenses. Living in Jordan is “extremely expensive,” Syrians complain, and many are unemployed. Registered refugees receive monthly cash allowances and food coupons from the United Nations…

Iraqi Jewish documents at the U.S. National Archives (New York Times) Books and manuscripts found in a flooded basement of Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters are now on display for the first time at the National Archives. They are ragged, warped, torn and stained, and that is after extensive restoration. This new exhibition, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” presents just 24 artifacts (and some reproductions) selected from 2,700 volumes and tens of thousands of documents the American military found submerged in four feet of fetid water in the Mukhabarat, Iraq’s intelligence building…

Vatican-supported interreligious forum opens in Vienna (Vatican Radio) The first-ever Global Forum of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue opens Monday morning in Vienna, Austria. Known by its acronym, KAICIID, the center is an international organization recognized by the United Nations, of which the Holy See is a founding observer. The president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, is slated to be among the speakers at Monday morning’s general assembly…

Chaldean patriarch: Government and religious leaders must unite Iraq (AsiaNews) In a speech before the Iraqi parliament on the occasion of Human Rights Day, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I said the country’s security situation has “deteriorated”; sectarian divisions are becoming more pronounced, while “regional and international” powers feed the growing fractures…



Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Turkey Refugee Camps

15 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 5 October photo, Syrian refugee children gather around a fire near their makeshift tents in Ankara, Turkey. (photo: CNS/Umit Bekta, Reuters)

United Nations shocked by Syrian refugees being turned away (Daily Star Lebanon) On Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed alarm over reports that Greece and Bulgaria were turning away Syrians fleeing their war-ravaged homeland, forcing them to return to overloaded Turkey. “Push-backs and prevention of entry can put asylum-seekers at further risk and expose them to additional trauma,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters, saying that all states must cease such practices immediately…

In Syria, a new order for daily bread (Los Angeles Times) The war in Syria has disrupted food supplies, and few scarce commodities are missed more than bread, a staple in the nation. At the height of the shortages last year, Syrians posted sonnets online about a boy and his beloved: a loaf of bread. Shortages in opposition neighborhoods and towns lead to long lines and crowding at the few functioning bakeries, which become targets for government shelling or airstrikes in which dozens have been killed. Now bakeries here in Aleppo no longer sell directly to customers. “The whole point was to avoid the crowding,” said Yusuf Hirih, owner of a bakery in Kalaseh neighborhood…

‘Little flowers’ of solidarity blossoming in the desert of Syria’s war (AsiaNews) “Little flowers” are blossoming in the desert of Syria’s war, tended by acts of charity and solidarity towards civilians crushed by bombs and overwhelmed by hunger, according to Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo and Archbishop Mario Zenari, papal nuncio to Syria. In the stories that they tell, the two prelates describe another Syria, one that survives alongside the Syria of hatred and destruction covered by international media. “Through its charity work, the Catholic Church is trying to regain the sense of love and brotherhood between Christians and Muslims that the war has destroyed,” said Archbishop Jean-Clement…

India needs a Magna Carta for children’s rights (Fides) “Every month about 100,000 Indian children die from causes related to malnutrition. Many die because of infectious diseases that could be cured, but malnutrition has weakened their immune systems,” said Sajan George Kavinkalath, president of the Mother Teresa Foundation for Children, in an appeal for the protection and safeguarding of childhood in India. “The first task of social justice is to save the lives of children. … A solemn legislative affirmation is needed on equal access to education for girls and against any discrimination of gender and caste or economic and social status, a sort of Magna Carta for the child…”

Syro-Malabar Catholic Church protests Western Ghats report (The Pioneer) The Catholic Church in Kerala has taken a stance against recommendations of the Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan committees for the protection of the Western Ghats and its ecology, saying that implementation of the proposals would put the farmers in the state’s high ranges into peril. A pastoral letter issued by Syro-Malabar Bishop Mathew Anikkuzhikkattil of Idukki asked farmers and people of the high ranges to deal with political parties and leaders supporting the panel reports in an organized manner…

Chaldean patriarch: ‘We fear for our survival’ (Aid to the Church in Need) Hopes are high ahead of the meeting of the Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East with the pope. Patriarch Louis Raphael I, the head of the Chaldean Church, which is in full communion with Rome, recently spoke to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, remarking that he expects much from the meeting. The patriarch, who resides in Baghdad, described it as a great challenge for the Christians in the Middle East to live as full and equal citizens of their countries. “Emigration is threatening our present and our future. We fear for our survival…”



Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

14 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis takes off his zucchetto as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 6 November. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Prosecutor warns of a mafia threat against Pope Francis (Washington Post) Pope Francis could be at risk from the ‘Ndrangheta organized crime organization, according to a leading anti-mob prosecutor who has himself been the target of threats from the mafia. Nicola Gratteri, 55, a state prosecutor in the southern Italian region of Calabria, where the ‘Ndrangheta is most active, said the pope’s effort to reform the church is making the ‘Ndrangheta “very nervous.” The organization is considered by experts in Italy to be the most dangerous and coordinated mafia organization in the country. “For many years, the mafia has laundered money and made investments with the complicity of the church. But now the pope is dismantling the poles of economic power in the Vatican, and that is dangerous…”

Memory of a mass killing becomes another casualty of Egyptian protests (New York Times) Memory has become a frequent casualty of Egypt’s politics since the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Leaders have tried to wipe away histories of atrocities by foot-dragging on investigations until new bloodshed dulls memories of the old. But nothing so far has matched the effort by the military-backed government and its supporters to extinguish the memory of Rabaa al Adawiya, the site of the worst mass killing in Egypt’s modern history, and a dangerous reminder of absent justice and Egypt’s festering political feuds. Reminders of the past have become a threat. Athletes have drawn outrage and censure for displaying the four-finger Rabaa symbol — Rabaa means “fourth” in Arabic — at competitions. For its part, the military quickly transformed the square where as many as 900 people were killed, leaving no hint of the violence except the bullet holes in lampposts and homes…

Egypt: Church threatens to reject constitution (Asharq al Awsat) The Coptic Church has threatened to reject Egypt’s new draft constitution over the terminology used to describe Christians and Jews. A member of the 50-member constitution drafting committee, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that the differences revolve around an article that uses the term “People of the Book” to refer to Christians and Jews, which some from the two minority groups find offensive. Egypt’s Christians have rejected the term “People of the Book,” preferring the article refer specifically to “non-Muslims…”

Jordan rejects Jewish prayer at Al Aqsa mosque compound (Al Monitor) Jordanian-Israeli ties, always under pressure, could be heading for trouble if the Knesset approves a controversial bill to divide Al Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem, allowing Jews to pray in the Muslim compound. The bill was drafted by Israeli Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan and was rejected by Arab Knesset members, who warned that if passed, the law could lead to the eruption of a third intifada. Under the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, the former maintains a special supervisory role over Muslim and Christian holy sites in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since the 1967 war…

Syrian Kurds gaining ground, push for autonomy (Christian Science Monitor) Emboldened by a string of victories over powerful Al Qaeda affiliates fighting in Syria, Kurds there have taken a major step toward autonomy. On Tuesday, Kurdish groups announced the formation of an interim autonomous government in Syria’s Kurdish region, with elections to follow. The announcement comes on the heels of battle successes against Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, among the most powerful of the myriad homegrown and foreign forces fighting the Assad regime…

Russian Orthodox Church returns to Mideast (Al Monitor) Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Russian Orthodox Church’s chief external affairs officer, met with a number of state, political and religious officials in the Lebanese capital, bearing several messages. The most important was Russia’s decision to effectively act as the protector of Christians in the Levant and as their defender and legal representative, perhaps the only real one they have on an international level. The metropolitan went on to emphasize that the goals, principles and interests of the Russian Federation are predicated on “the survival of Levantine Christians in their countries, and their peaceful coexistence with their Muslim compatriots, away from external attempts to destabilize those countries…”

Serbian Orthodox Church celebrates “Vraci” (inSerbia) Today, the Serbian Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, popularly known as “Vraci” or “Vracevi.” These saints are considered patrons of the medical profession. Sts. Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians and early Christian martyrs born in Cilicia, part of today’s Turkey. They practiced their profession in the seaport of Ayas, Adana and the Roman province of Syria. They did not accept payment for their services, and many believe that this is how they attracted many people to Christian faith…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Jordan Russian Orthodox Church

13 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In his final address as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan called religious freedom “a central social and political concern of our time” and urged the bishops to make the protection of religious liberty around the world a priority in their work. (video: CNS)

Cardinal Dolan urges bishops to make religious freedom a priority (CNS) New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, CNEWA’s chair, called upon his brother bishops to champion the cause of people around the world being persecuted because of their faith even as the bishops continue to prevent what he described as infringements upon religious practice in the United States. In his final address as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the opening of their fall general assembly on 11 November in Baltimore, Cardinal Dolan outlined a series of steps the bishops can take to protect religious freedom around the world…

Pope expresses deep sorrow for deaths of children in Syria (Vatican Radio) During the General Audience Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis expressed great sadness over the tragic loss of innocent lives in the conflict in Syria, particularly the deaths this week of a number of school children in a Damascus suburb. “Let us pray that these tragedies do not occur!” he said. “These are the true battles to fight…”

Syrian mothers in refugee camp brace for winter (Al Monitor) More than 200 Syrian babies are born in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan every month, and with winter on its way and a shortage of baby food, families are worried. In Zaatari, manufactured milk for babies is scarce, too, just like diapers, which can only be bought every few months and are very expensive…

Egypt’s Christians close ranks as kidnappings spike (Christian Science Monitor) A terrifying ordeal has become familiar for Christians throughout southern Egypt. More than 100 people have been kidnapped for ransom in this marginalized region in the last two and a half years, nearly all of them Christians, according to activists and church officials. And there has been a sharp increase in kidnappings in the months since 14 August, when hundreds were killed as police broke up two sit-ins supporting Muhammad Morsi, Egypt’s recently ousted president…

Israel halts West Bank settlement plan under pressure (Al Jazeera) Israel’s prime minister attempted to halt a plan to explore the potential construction of thousands of new homes in West Bank settlements, saying it had created an “unnecessary confrontation” with the international community that threatened to weaken his campaign against Iran’s suspect nuclear program. The plan, announced Tuesday by Israel’s Housing Ministry, drew angry criticism from officials in Washington, who said they had been blindsided by the announcement. A State Department statement reiterated that “we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.” The U.N. deems all Israeli settlements on land occupied during the war of June 1967 to be illegal…

Iraq attacks kill 27 as Shiites mass for Ashura (Daily Star Lebanon) Violence across Iraq, including bombings against Shiites, killed 27 people on Wednesday as worshipers massed in a shrine city on the eve of major commemoration rituals often targeted by militants. The bloodshed was the latest in a months-long surge in unrest that has forced Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to appeal for United States military assistance, as Iraqi action has failed to stem the unrelenting wave of attacks. Bombings mostly struck north and west of Baghdad, targeting Shiite Muslims and members of the security forces…

Short overview of wine in Georgia (Heritage Daily) According to a Georgian legend, God took a supper break while he was creating the world. He became so involved in his meal that he by accident tripped over the high peaks of the Caucasus and as a result he spilled his own food onto the land below. The land below blessed with the scraps of Heaven’s table was Georgia. The beginning of human civilizations is closely connected to the development of agriculture and the history of cultivated plants, and Georgia played a crucial role in this process. One of the reasons for that is that wine culture in Georgia can be traced to early prehistoric times. The research of linguists indicates that the root of the Indo-European term for ‘wine’ (“vino”) might derive from the Georgian word “Rvino”…



Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Georgia Refugee Camps Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan

12 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 24 October photo, Comboni Sister Azezet Kidane, known as Sister Aziza, hugs a child at the nursery school in the African Refugee Development Center’s shelter in Tel Aviv, Israel. The shelter for single mothers and pregnant women has been helping Eritrean women fleeing to Israel through Egypt. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Comboni nun works to help Eritreans tortured, raped en route to Israel (CNS) Comboni Sister Azezet Kidane is fluent in Amharic, Tigrit, Arabic and Sudanese dialects, so she was a natural choice when a shelter for African refugees needed help. It was only after the nun, known as Sister Aziza, began conducting interviews with Eritrean refugees that she realized the people she was talking to had been tortured. “It is a horror story what is happening,” she told Catholic News Service from the African Refugee Development Center’s shelter for single mothers and pregnant women in a low-income neighborhood of Tel Aviv. “Sister Aziza is a blessing for us. People feel comfortable opening up to her,” said Shahar Shoham, director of migrants and statusless people at Physicians for Human Rights Israel. “The torture continues even now. As we are speaking it is happening…”

Activist groups condemn Eritrean human rights abuses (Open Doors) The United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth, recently told the General Assembly that human rights abuses in Eritrea are causing “countless Eritreans” to flee the country. Eritreans, according to U.N. figures, are second only to Syria in the number of those who have fled to Italy by sea as of 30 September. A number of rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have condemned Eritrea’s human rights record. Amnesty International claims that Eritrea’s prisons are filled with “thousands of political prisoners, locked up without ever being charged with a crime, many of whom are never heard from again…”

Shelling in Damascus: children, civilians and churches affected (Fides) Mortar shells damaged the St. John Damascene Primary School yesterday in the district of Al Qassaa in Damascus, killing 5 children and wounding 27 others. Another rocket hit a school bus in Bab Touma, a predominantly Christian suburb in Damascus, injuring five students…

Syrian priest describes war of ‘all against all’ (Fides) The leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri, made an official pronouncement delegitimizing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the jihadist organization that last year had assumed a hegemonic position in the frontline of anti-Assad militias. This illustrates the growing conflicts between the factions fighting the Syrian army government, loyal to Assad. The Rev. Paul Karam, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, commented on this turn of events. “On Syrian ground it is a war, all against all. … Who pays for all this? Only the exhausted Syrian population and, within society, the minorities who are the most vulnerable of all,” he said. “It is necessary to promote a true path of peace that does not take the form of a plan for the division of the country…”

Pope meets with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Tuesday with Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church. This meeting coincided with the meeting of Cardinal Angelo Scola and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Moscow…

Interreligious dialogue in the teaching of the Catholic Church (VIS) TheHoly See Press Office held a press conference to present the book “Il Dialogo Interreligioso nell’Insegnamento Ufficiale della Chiesa Cattolica (1963-2013)” (“Interreligious Dialogue in the Official Teaching of the Catholic Church, (1963-2013)”). The speakers in the conference were Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; the Rev. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.J., secretary of the same dicastery; and Bishop Francesco Gioia, O.F.M., editor of the work. The aim of this third edition, which covers the papal magisterium from the Vatican Council II until Pope Benedict XVI, is to present directly to both Catholics and followers of other religions the official thought of the church…



Tags: Refugees Syrian Civil War Ecumenism Eritrea Interfaith

8 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, pictured here in 2007, expressed concerns about the potential impact of combat over a Syrian power plant. (photo: CNS/Liana Allos)

Clashes at power plant put Aleppo at risk of environmental catastrophe (Fides) “For three days there has been no electricity in the center of Aleppo. There have been clashes at the power plant in Al Harrarieh, and there is very dangerous situation because hazardous materials are located in that area,” says Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo…

Syrian archbishop denies massacre in Qamishli (Fides) According to Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, there was no massacre of Christians in the Syrian cities of Hassaké and Qamishli. False news of a massacre of 70 Christians — including three priests — carried out in Qamishli by anti-Assad rebels had been launched on some sites already known for previous operations of misinformation…

Lebanese Shiite leader launches interfaith dialogue (Al Monitor) The prominent Lebanese Shiite scholar Ali Fadlallah has launched a new initiative aimed at promoting interfaith dialogue and cooling sectarian tensions in the region. This forum was announced during a ceremony held in Beirut on Tuesday, 30 October. A number of religious leaders were also in attendance, including the Rev. Fadi Daou, a representative of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter; the Rev. Sulaiman Wehbe, a representative of Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III; a representative for the papal ambassador to Lebanon; Archbishop Daniel Sukkar, a representative of Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I; and a number of Sunni, Shiite and Druze religious scholars from Lebanon and the Arab and Islamic world…

Egypt-Ethiopia Nile talks end on sour note (Al Monitor) Disputes and disagreements erupted again between Egypt and Ethiopia concerning the Nile River dam construction, after both countries failed to reach an agreement governing the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in their initial negotiating session. The attempt at dialogue quickly ended, while the crisis of trust between the two countries resurfaced as their fears that the other might appropriate the Nile’s waters became evident…



Tags: Ethiopia Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Interfaith Environment





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