10 October 2012
In this image from 16 October 2011, Coptic Christians conduct a candlelight protest at Abassaiya Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, one week after more than two dozen people were killed during clashes with soldiers and riot police. (photo: CNS/stringer via Reuters)
Thousands march to remember killing of Egypt Copts (Associated Press) Several thousand Egyptians marched for miles through Cairo on Tuesday, marking the year anniversary of a military crackdown on Christian protesters that killed 26 people and demanding retribution against army leaders they hold responsible for the deaths. Muslim clerics, Christian priests, activists and liberal former lawmakers joined the procession, filling large boulevards to memorialize the “Maspero massacre,” referring to the name of the state TV building overlooking the Nile River where the violence took place a year ago.
In Syria, “humanitarian emergency increases” (Fides) As the conflict continues, “humanitarian crisis increases more and more: although we do our best, we are not able to meet all the needs of refugees. We urgently need other humanitarian aid.” That is how the lay Catholic Pascal Kateb, secretary general of Caritas Syria, describes the situation in Syria to Fides.
Warm welcome for Apostolic Nuncio in Malyankara (Indian Express/IBN) Malyankara is the place where the light of Christianity was ignited first, and it has to glow brightly shedding the light all over the world, said Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Dr. Salvatore Pennacchio to the believers while visiting the St. Thomas Pilgrim Center at Malyankara on Monday. The Mar Thoma Pontifical Shrine, at the Pilgrim Center, is a monument to St. Thomas situated at Marthoma Nagar at Kodungallur.
Some Russian Orthodox call for closing gay clubs in Moscow (The Moscow Times) A group of Russian Orthodox believers on Monday called for the closure of all gay clubs in Moscow as part of the drive to ban the promotion of homosexuality. The People’s Council, a nationalist Orthodox organization, said in a statement that homosexuality is “a grave sin” and that it was seeking to close gay clubs that “entice fragile members of society into the gay community,” Interfax reported.
Christians show love of Israel in Jerusalem (Huffington Post) The mainstream news media can leave the average Israeli with the impression that much of the world has hostile, hateful feelings towards the Jewish state or, at the very least, does not want to be friends. It gets a little lonely at times in the Middle East. But there was love in the air of Jerusalem this past Thursday afternoon. Marching through the streets of Jerusalem, approximately 6,000 Christian friends of Israel made their way with flags and smiles, which they readily shared with Israeli bystanders — from secular to ultra-orthodox Jews of all ages and backgrounds. Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov welcomed the Christian visitors, who were led by evangelical Protestant community leaders visiting from across the world to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, the Christian celebration of the seven-day Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
9 October 2012
Tags: Syria India Egypt Violence against Christians Israel
Rubble runs up to the foot of the altar inside a church damaged during shelling in Homs, Syria, on 5 October. (photo: CNS/Shaam News Network, handout via Reuters)
Fighting intensifies in Homs, church damaged (The Guardian) Homs could fall at any moment as the Syrian army takes street after street, a resident of the central Hamidiya district told the Guardian. Khalid Majied said the Free Syrian Army was doing little to help civilians and appeared to be on the verge of pulling out of the city.
Arabic to become a part of the pope’s general audience (VIS) Beginning on Wednesday 10 October, during the Holy Father’s weekly general audience, an Arabic speaker will join the other speakers who provide a summary of the papal catechizes in various different languages. In this way, in the wake of his recent trip to Lebanon and the publication of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” the Holy Father intends to express his perpetual concern and support for Christians in the Middle East, and to remind everyone of their duty to pray and work for peace in the region.
Patriarch Gregory III: “May the Year of Faith be the Year of Reconciliation” (Fides) “May the Year of Faith be for Syria the Year of Reconciliation: [this] is the hope of Christians and all the Syrian people.” This is what the Melkite patriarch of Damascus, Gregory III Laham, now in the Vatican to attend the Synod on the New Evangelization, declared in an interview with Fides on the eve of the opening of the Year of Faith. “We Christians in the Middle East,” Patriarch Gregory III explains of the Greek Catholic community that in Syria has over 150,000 faithful, “feel an integral part of the Arab world and in this moment of difficulty, problems, fear, we have greater need to strengthen our faith: to be bearers of the Gospel.”
Catholic bishops of the Holy Land offer guidance on living the Year of Faith (Fides) In a newly published pastoral letter, the Assembly of Bishops of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land offers its contribution to the itinerary that the universal church is called to fulfill in the Year of Faith. The pastors of the Catholic churches in the region, citing Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation, remind everyone: “The example of the first community of Jerusalem can serve as a model to renew the current Christian community.”
Kerala Catholics prepare to begin Year of Faith (Asian Age) The Year of Faith beginning in Catholic Church on Thursday will see faithful in the state joining others across the world for special prayers in homes and churches. Though the Catholic Church in Kerala does not expect a situation like that in Europe, where church attendance is in alarming decline, it still is keen on the yearlong stress on reaffirming faith.
Tom Hanks to be featured on posters promoting Christianity in Russia (Hollywood Reporter) Tom Hanks will appear on posters promoting Orthodox Christianity in Russia and neighboring states alongside prominent local cultural and sports figures. The Russian Orthodox youth movement Soboryane said it is launching a massive poster campaign during a missionary event entitled “My Pravoslavnye” (“We Are Orthodox Christians”) on 13 and 14 October in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
5 October 2012
Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Kerala Russian Orthodox Church
An image of Mary is seen near a hole in a church after shelling in the old city of Homs, Syria, on 30 September.(CNS photo/Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)
Mother superior from Syria says Christians “cleared” by rebel forces (The Australian) The mother superior of a 1500-year-old monastery in Syria warned yesterday during a visit to Australia that the uprising against Bashar al-Assad has been hijacked by foreign Islamist mercenaries, with strong support from Western countries. Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix was forced to flee to neighboring Lebanon in June when she was warned of a plot to abduct her, after she revealed that about 80,000 Christians had been “cleared” by rebel forces from their homes in Homs province.
Apostolic Exhortation: a document that gives hope to Christians in the Middle East (Fides) Christians and Muslimss read, spread, photocopy, and study the Post-Synodal Exhortation “Ecclesia in the Middle East”, issued by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Lebanon. As reported by local sources of Fides Agency, people are studying the document in Lebanon but also in Syria, Jordan and the Holy Land. The Christian faithful, of all confessions, pending the release of an official document in Arabic by the Vatican Publishing, print the exhortation from the Vatican website, photocopy it, read it and study it in the various communities.
Coptic children accused of insulting Islam released (Fides) The Egyptian Prosecutor General ordered yesterday afternoon, October 4, the release of the two Coptic Orthodox children who had been taken the previous day to a juvenile detention after being accused of urinating on some pages containing the verses of the Quran, in a village in the southern province of Beni Suef.
Russian Orthodox clergy allowed to run for office (Interfax) The governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church has allowed clerics to run for elected office in government “in the event of dire ecclesiastical necessity.”
4 October 2012
Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Middle East Muslim
Pope Benedict XVI uses incense in front of a statue of Our Lady of Loreto as he celebrates Mass outside the Sanctuary of the Holy House in Loreto, Italy, on 4 October. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
At Marian shrine, pope entrusts Year of Faith, synod to Mary (CNS) During a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto, Pope Benedict XVI formally entrusted to Mary the world Synod of Bishops and the Year of Faith. The pope's visit marked the 50th anniversary of Blessed John XXIII's visit to the Marian shrine, about 175 miles northwest of Rome, when he entrusted to Mary's care the Second Vatican Council. "Fifty years on, having been called by divine providence to succeed that unforgettable pope to the See of Peter, I, too, have come on pilgrimage to entrust to the Mother of God two important ecclesial initiatives: the Year of Faith. ... I wish to entrust to the Most Holy Mother of God all the difficulties affecting our world as it seeks serenity and peace," the pope said.
Turkey approves military operations in Syria (Al Jazeera) Turkey’s parliament has authorized cross-border military action against Syria, if deemed necessary by the government. The mandate, valid for one year, was passed by 320 votes in the 550-seat Turkish parliament, the Anatolia news agency reported on Thursday. Besir Atalay, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, said the authorization was not a declaration of war but was intended as a deterrent. The vote came as Turkey resumed shelling Syrian government military positions on Thursday morning in retaliation for a mortar attack which landed over its border in southeastern Turkey killing five of its citizens — a woman and four children from the same family.
Two Egyptian Coptic Christian boys charged with defiling a Quran (New York Times) Two Coptic Christian boys have been detained by the authorities on charges that they defiled the pages of a Quran, the latest in a spate of recent cases involving accusations that people have insulted Islam. The boys, ages 9 and 10, are being held in juvenile detention in the village of Ezbet Marco, south of Cairo, according to Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights who is investigating the case. The charges seemed likely to add to growing anxieties in Egypt about free speech rights, the sway of hard-line Islamists and the status of the country’s Christian minority, which fears an erosion of rights under an Islamist government.
Syro-Malabar Catholic Church plays matchmaker (Indian Express) Going beyond its traditional role of performing weddings, the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has started an online matchmaking service to ensure that its members marry from among the state’s Catholic community. The church recently registered syromalabarmatrimony.org, controlled directly by its headquarters in Cochin. Bishop Joseph Porunnedam, head of the church’s internet mission, said: “Catholic youths are migrating in drives to various places in India and abroad for education and employment. ... In such a scenario, the chances of our men and women tying the knot with persons from other religions are high. If that happens, in future, they may even abandon the Catholic faith. Hence, we decided to launch a matrimony service.”
Papal exhortation gives hope to Middle East Christians (Fides) Christian and Muslim communities are reading, spreading and studying the post-synodal exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” issued by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Lebanon. As reported by local sources of Fides Agency, the widespread interest is not exclusive to Lebanon but stretches to Syria, Jordan and the Holy Land. “Muslim communities that are studying it appreciate it. Christians of all denominations — Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants — underline a very important point: the invitation ’not to be afraid’, to live in the Middle East building peace and coexistence. It is a key phrase that remains etched in the minds of Christians, in the context in which we live today,” says Wissam Lahham, a member of the Assembly of Eastern Christians, an N.G.O. based in Beirut.
Egyptian Copts hold memorial service for Maspero victims (Daily News Egypt) The Coptic Orthodox Church held a liturgy on Wednesday at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. The service commemorated the protesters who died almost a year ago in Maspero Square. On 9 October 2011 a large group of predominantly Christian protesters marched from the Cairo neighborhood of Shubra and were confronted by the army near the state television and radio building, leading to an assault that left many Christian protesters dead. While S.C.A.F. conducted an investigation and claimed the army was not at fault, video and witnesses indicate that the army ran over many of the demonstrators with tanks. Wednesday’s liturgy marked the end of a three-day church-wide fast in preparation for the next stage of the papal election process.
3 October 2012
Tags: Egypt Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Coptic Christians
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican observer at the United Nations in Geneva, speaks at a town hall discussion on migration hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See at the Pontifical North American College in Rome on 8 March 2012. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Archbishop urges solidarity and protection for refugees (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, made a statement before the 63rd session of U.N.H.C.R.’s Executive Committee: “Mr. Chairman, The surge in the number of recent conflicts has produced new waves of refugees and displaced persons. ... Forcibly uprooted people challenge the international community, which has failed to prevent it, to respond to their vulnerability. ... [A]s armed clashes persist and new uprooted people are obliged to seek survival in exile and in precarious conditions of physical and psychological suffering, it becomes our common responsibility to search and apply more creative and concrete forms of solidarity and protection.”
More than 40 killed as 4 bombs strike Aleppo (New York Times) Four huge explosions struck a government-held district of Aleppo, Syria, on Wednesday, shearing off the fronts of two tall buildings, killing more than 40 people and filling the streets with rubble in a square near the area’s public park, according to video, photographs and reports from the Syrian government and its opponents. The bombings hit a central square bordered by a graceful public garden, a downtown district full of hotels and offices, and the Christian neighborhood of Aziziyeh, where many people had sought refuge over the weekend.
Huge turnout for Sukkot blessings in Jerusalem (Haaretz) Tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers descended upon Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Wednesday to hear the traditional priestly blessing that is considered a hallmark of the annual Sukkot festival. “The aura was just amazing,” said 38 year-old Emily of Massry of Brooklyn, New York, who attended the event for the first time, along with three of her friends. “We felt the achdut, the unity, of so many different communities coming together.”
Study: Orthodox Christians in Russia lack churches (RIA Novosti) Orthodox Christians constitute 43 percent of the Russian populace, but they have less churches and parishes per believer than any other major confession in the country, according to a new study presented on Wednesday. “There’s a huge demand for faith, which is not being met” due to a shortage of religious facilities, said sociologist of religion Roman Lunkin of the Sreda polling service at a presentation in Moscow.
Explosion in east Lebanon kills at least four (Lebanon Daily Star) An explosion that ripped through a house in east Lebanon killed at least four people and wounded three more, according to security sources. It is not yet clear what triggered the blast. A local official in Nabi Sheet, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star that the explosion most likely targeted a “Hezbollah arms depot.”
2 October 2012
Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Jerusalem Vatican Russia
Shelling leaves a church in ruins in the Old City of Homs, Syria, on 30 September. (photo: CNS/Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)
Syrian Christian churches urge protection of heritage (Fides) Christian leaders of all denominations and communities have filed an appeal to UNESCO, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Council for Culture. “Religious buildings (synagogues, churches, mosques, monasteries and sanctuaries) are used for military purposes, which causes their progressive destruction. We implore the belligerents to save the protected areas and not to use them for military purposes.”
Franciscan monastery in Jerusalem vandalized (BBC) Vandals have spray-painted anti-Christian graffiti on the main door of a Franciscan monastery outside Jerusalem, Church officials have said. Photographs published online showed blue graffiti denigrating Jesus at the Convent of Saint Francis on Mount Zion. Also painted on the door were the words “price tag”; Jewish settlers and extremists have been carrying out so-called “price-tag” attacks in retaliation for Israeli government curbs on settlement growth.
Poll: most Jordanians oppose admitting more refugees (Christian Science Monitor) As Syria’s civil war drags on in bloody stalemate, Jordan has maintained an open-door policy for its refugees, allowing in tens of thousands of people. But with no end to the conflict in sight, the friendly relationship between Jordan and its “guests” is showing signs of strain. According to a nationwide poll by the Center for Strategic Studies at Jordan University, 65 percent of Jordanians oppose allowing more Syrians into the country, and more than 80 percent said the Syrians already present should be confined to camps.
Austerity measures may begin to target Greek Orthodox Church (Der Spiegel) The Greek Orthodox Church has managed to cling onto many of its economic privileges, despite austerity stinging nearly all other parts of the country’s society. Now, fueled by continued stagnation and growing popular resentment in the face of scandal, the Greek government has begun scaling back its financial support for the church.
On Palestinian right of return, Israel raises matter of Jewish refugees (Christian Science Monitor) Israel is demanding that the losses of displaced Arab Jews be acknowledged and compensed in some way. In doing so, the campaign touches one of Palestinians’ most sensitive wounds, harbored since Israel’s founding in 1948: their right to return to lands and homes left in 1948-49, when at least 750,000 either fled or were expelled by Israel. Though many Palestinians recognize at least some Arab Jews as refugees, they are concerned that Israel is trying to cancel its debt to them by putting the suffering of Arab Jews on the same international ledger.
1 October 2012
Tags: Syria Refugees Violence against Christians Jerusalem Jordan
In this November 2007 photo, Christians, including Catholic clergy and women religious, participate in a demonstration in New Delhi demanding an end to discrimination against dalit, or low-caste, Christians in India. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)
‘Untouchable’ no more (Al Jazeera) Despite a constitutional ban on India’s caste system in 1950, activists say discrimination based on social hierarchy continues. Activists are recording the stories of those deemed “untouchable” in the hopes of changing hearts and minds. Will the project work, or is caste no longer a problem?
Three days of prayer and fasting before selecting Coptic pope (OCP News Service) The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria has announced fasting and prayer for three days in preparation for the selection of the new pope of Alexandria and patriarch the Holy See of St. Mark. The period will begin Monday, 1 October, and run through Wednesday, 3 October 2012.
Georgian Orthodox Church joins Muslim board in decrying anti-Islamic film (Interfax) The Georgian Orthodox Church and the Georgian office of the South Caucasus Muslim Board consider “unacceptable the public demonstration of the film Innocence of Muslims, which has insulted millions of people and caused justifiable outrage and protest worldwide.”
Iraq sees deadliest month in over two years (Al Jazeera) September was the deadliest month in Iraq in more than two years, with 365 people killed in violence that included waves of nationwide attacks, official figures show. It was the highest monthly toll given by the government since August 2010, when figures showed 426 people killed and 838 wounded in attacks.
Aleppo fighting “destroying cultural heritage” (Lebanon Daily Star) UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said that, as a signatory to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, Syria was obliged to safeguard its heritage from the ravages of war. “The human suffering caused by this situation is already extreme,” she said in a statement. “That the fighting is now destroying cultural heritage that bears witness to the country’s millenary history — valued and admired the world over — makes it even more tragic.”
28 September 2012
Tags: Iraq India Syrian Civil War Coptic Orthodox Church Aleppo
Smoke rises from buildings after a Syrian fighter jet launched missiles in Aleppo, Syria, on 4 September. (photo: CNS/Youssef Boudlal, Reuters)
In Syria: “The atmosphere is very tense” (Fides) “The atmosphere is very tense,” explained Fr. Jules Baghdassarians, Greek-Catholic priest in Aleppo and National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in Syria, as opposition forces announced the beginning of the “final battle in Aleppo.” Fr. Baghdassarians said: “This morning armed rebel groups entered the neighborhood of Sheik Maqsoud, in Aleppo, home to many Kurds and Christians and there is intense fighting. In our Christian area in Suleimanye I counted 18 loud explosions. Groups of rebels entered in other Christian areas such as Jabrie and therefore life for the civilian population, in the crossfire, is in serious danger.”
Indian authorities say offensive scenes in Bollywood movie will be cut (Fides) The scenes considered “blasphemous” concerning people and symbols of the Christian faith in the Bollywood film “Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal” will be eliminated before the movie is released in cinemas, according to the “Censor Board.”
Coptic Christians flee Sinai (Associated Press) Coptic Christian families have fled their homes in a town in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, fearing for their lives after receiving death threats from suspected Islamic militants, a local priest said Thursday. Father Youssef Sobhi said that Islamic militants dropped leaflets on the doorsteps of shops owned by Copts in the city of Rafah near the border with Gaza and Israel, ordering them to leave town within 48 hours and making an implicit warning of violence if they failed to do so. Two days later, masked militants on a motorcycle opened fire on one of the shops before speeding off, Sobhi said. No one was hurt in the shooting.
Patriarch Kirill defends ties to Kremlin (Reuters) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church on Friday rejected criticism of his increasingly strong relationship with President Vladimir Putin, saying that close ties between the church and state were good for society.
Christian-Muslim meeting in Istanbul this weekend (Vatican Radio) A two-day symposium on Muslim-Christian dialogue takes place in the Turkish capital of Istanbul this weekend, exploring the theme of “Being a foreigner and dialogue with the other.”
27 September 2012
Tags: Jerusalem Unity Health Care Multiculturalism
A damaged building is seen after heavy shelling in Aleppo, Syria, on 26 September.
Saving the lives of Syria’s refugees (Washington Post) If you need a measure of how desperate Syria’s refugees are, contemplate this: Many are fleeing to Iraq. It’s astonishing that Iraq, once the refugee equivalent of the Titanic, has become a lifeboat. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (U.N.H.C.R.) reports that there are 15,096 Syrian refugees in Iraq, and that they are among 100,000 Syrians who have fled to Jordan, Turkey, and beyond since Bashar al-Assad’s regime began fighting with opponents in March 2011. Who are these refugees? Children and families make up a huge number. At Jordan’s Za’atri refugee camp, according to a U.N.H.C.R. spokesperson, children accounted for 60 percent of new arrivals in one week. Syrian troops recently killed a 6-year-old boy fleeing to Jordan.
Jordan’s King warns against attempts to erase Jerusalem’s Muslim, Christian identity (Jordan Times) His Majesty King Abdullah warned against attempts to erase the Arab, Muslim, or Christian identity of Jerusalem or invade Al Aqsa Mosque. Delivering an address at the plenary session of the 67th U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, the king urged the international community to send a clear message that any such transgressions will not be tolerated. “We are extremely concerned by threats to Jerusalem and the sanctity of its Muslim and Christian holy sites,” he said, according to a transcript of the speech.
Coptic, Islamic scholars agree on new Egyptian constitution (Fides) Representatives of Egyptian political parties, Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church met at the Shura Council of Parliament to resolve disputes over eight articles in the new constitution. In particular, the participants agreed to keep Article Two as it was in the 1971 Constitution, which states: “Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language and the principles of Islamic Shari’a are a main source legislation.”
Church leaders blast Indian film as blasphemous (Fides) The Bollywood film “Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal” (”Laugh, be happy”), to be released tomorrow, 28 September, “is blasphemous, an offense against Christian faith and the faithful’s feelings.” For this reason, Father Domic D’Abrio, spokesman for the Catholic Episcopal Conference of India, told Fides, “the Indian bishops are offended and saddened by the failure to report the competent bodies in charge of controlling films destined for the general public. … They deplore the producers’ irresponsible behavior [and ask civil authorities] to ensure full respect for the symbols and content of the Christian faith in India.”
Ethiopians celebrate Demera procession (ENA via Ethiopsorts) Demera, the bonfire traditionally burnt on eve of the Finding of the True Cross (Meskel) upon which Jesus Christ was crucified, was celebrated on Wednesday throughout the country. In the capital, the day was celebrated in the presence of tens of thousands of residents of the Addis Ababa City, members of the diplomatic community and foreign tourists, as well as senior government officials. Deacons, priests and students of Sunday schools garbed in white, traditional clothing played religious songs and hymns that added color to the holiday.
Muslim prayer room welcomed at Canadian Catholic school (Catholic Register) Concerns that the establishment of a prayer room, requested by Muslim students, at a London, Ontario, Catholic high school will water down the school’s Catholic faith are just plain wrong, says the school board’s education director. “First of all, it’s a prayer room; it’s not named after a particular faith,” said Wilma de Rond, director of education for the London District Catholic School Board (L.D.C.S.B.). “When a request comes from another faith there is no request for us to provide any sort of accommodation for them that in some way impacts our faith.”
Russian Patriarch calls for victory in sports (Voice of Russia Radio) Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, met with Russia’s best athletes on Wednesday. “A victory in sports is a real feat,” His Holiness said. “Among other components, a victory in sports has a strong spiritual component.”
26 September 2012
Tags: Egypt Refugees Syrian Civil War Jordan Christian-Muslim relations
Pope Benedict XVI greets Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III during his visit to St. Paul's Basilica in Harissa, Lebanon on 14 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Patriarch Gregorios III receives representatives of European Union (Byzcath.org) The day after Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon, which was a constantly reiterated call for peace, His Beatitude Gregorios III, patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, tenaciously pursued his efforts and appeals for a cessation of hostilities in Syria. On Thursday 20 September, the patriarch received representatives of Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Greece and Poland, as well as a representative of Canada, in the patriarchal residence of Rabweh, Lebanon.
Hostages released in Syria (Fides) Bells ring in celebration, hugs are shared among family members reunited, a Mass of Thanksgiving and a solemn interfaith ceremony of reconciliation are celebrated: this all happened yesterday in the village of Rableh, in the region of Homs, on the border with Lebanon. The joyous city commemorated the release of about 240 Christians, mostly Greek Catholic faithful, recently taken hostage by armed groups while working in the fields.
Christian, Muslim leaders reflect on pope’s Lebanon visit (Fides) Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon is increasingly shaping up to be the beginning of a new season for Lebanon. This is confirmed by the summit of the heads of the local religious communities and their representatives held yesterday at the headquarters of Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara in Bkerke.
Middle Eastern speakers in Rome denounce Western interference (Catholic News Service) Western nations need to respect the people of the Middle East and trust them to solve their own problems, said an Iraqi diplomat, an Iraqi archbishop and a Syrian-born representative of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. The two religious leaders also called for an end to foreign military intervention and other interference in the region that they said only foment strife and hinder their citizens’ desire for peace. Their comments came during an event sponsored by the Iraqi Embassy to the Vatican on 24 September. Ali Nashmi, a Muslim professor and historian spoke on the contribution by Iraqi Christians throughout history to the preservation of both Eastern and Western cultures.
Russian lawmakers call for jail for “blasphemous acts” (Reuters) Russian lawmakers are calling for jail sentences for people guilty of offending religious feelings, in a move that could tighten the bonds between President Vladimir Putin and the resurgent Orthodox Church.
Hasidic Jews experience a slow rebirth in Russia (NPR) About a dozen men prayed recently at Darkei Shalom, a Hasidic Jewish synagogue in the working-class neighborhood of Otradnoye in northern Moscow. Except for the Star of David on its squat tower, the building is as plain and utilitarian as the linoleum on the floor. It sits — along with a Russian Orthodox church and a mosque — on a leafy stretch of land surrounded by towering apartment blocks. Dovid Karpov has been the rabbi here since the synagogue was built 15 years ago. He says he’s fairly typical of the people who form this community: Jews who grew up in Soviet times with little connection to their religious roots.
Tags: Syria Lebanon Iraqi Christians Pope Benedict XVI Russian Orthodox Church