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June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
  
22 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Destroyed buildings are seen in a time lapse image at night on 18 February in the rebel-held city of Daraa, Syria. (photo: CNS/Alaa Al-Faqir, Reuters)

Calls for cease-fire in Syria, as violence escalates (CBS News) Sweden and Kuwait called for a vote Thursday on a U.N. resolution ordering a 30-day cease-fire throughout Syria to enable delivery of humanitarian aid to millions of people in acute need, and the evacuation of the critically sick and wounded...

Fire guts Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon (Andalou Agency) An early-morning fire destroyed several tents in a Syrian refugee camp in southern Lebanon on Tuesday. The fire broke out inside the 23-tent camp in al-Wazzani camp, destroying 15 tents, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter in the area. He said a heater had caused the blaze. No injuries were reported in the fire, which has left around 60 people homeless...

Report: Ukraine ‘desperately concerned’ about possible attack on gas pipeline (CNBC) Ukraine is worried that one of Europe’s most contentious energy developments will leave its gas pipeline vulnerable to a Russian attack, according to a leading political risk expert...

Has proof of the existence of the prophet Isaiah been found in Jerusalem? (Haaretz) The impression of Prophet Isaiah’s personal seal may have been found in Jerusalem. Excavations in the Ophel — an area just below the Temple Mount — found the seal mark, called a bulla, in undisturbed Iron Age remains, just 3 meters (10 feet) from where the bulla of King Hezekiah of Judah was found in 2015...

How volunteers made Lent special for a poor man in India (The Better India) In Thrissur, Kerala, a volunteer group led by social activist Devassy Chittilappilly under the moniker ‘Karuna’ has been regularly engaging in various philanthropic deeds for some time now. During Lent, the group involves itself in helping the homeless and people living on streets by giving them food and a bath. Nevertheless, nothing prepared them for the shock when they saw an old man, in a miserable state, eating food waste at a garbage dump yard at Velappaya, a village in the Thrissur district...

Pope Francis: The importance of native languages (Vatican News) Today is International Mother Language Day. Promoted by UNESCO, this day seeks to promote lingual and cultural diversity, as well as the ability to speak more than one language. Pope Francis supports the use of one’s mother tongue. “The mother tongue is a bastion against ideological and cultural colonization, and against a dominant way of thinking, which destroys diversity,” he said during his homily at Santa Marta in November 2017. For Pope Francis, not being able to speak in one’s native language is a way of erasing history in order to undermine freedom of thought. Each dialect, Pope Francis says, “has historical roots”...



21 February 2018
Greg Kandra




A young man lies on a stretcher at a at a clinic on 20 February after bombings in the besieged town of Ghouta, Syria. At least 194 people were among those killed by Syrian regime shelling and airstrikes on the besieged Damascus suburb. Another 900 have been injured.
(photo: CNS/Bassam Khabieh, Reuters)


Syrian forces target rebel-held Eastern Ghouta (Vatican News) Air strikes, rocket fire and long-range artillery pounded several areas across Eastern Ghouta, leaving scores of people dead. The powerful and coordinated barrage targeted the last major opposition pocket near the capital and constitutes the most intense period of bombing seen in years. Rami Abdul Rahman from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Vatican News that 194 people have been killed and 900 injured since Sunday...

Ukraine marks anniversary of Maidan bloodshed (Radio Free Europe) With paper angels, flowers, and fond words for the dead, Ukraine has marked the anniversary of a bloody crackdown on the Euromaidan protests that drove a Moscow-friendly president from power four years ago. The annual commemorations honor protesters who were killed in clashes with security forces in Kyiv on 20 February 2014 — a group of victims many Ukrainians call the Heavenly Hundred...

Muslims and Copts begin building a church together in Egypt (Egypt Independent) Muslims and Copts in the Kom al-Loufi Village of Samalut city in Minya have started to build a church by the name of “the virgin and the martyr Abanoub” after clashes erupted between Muslims and Copts that led to the damage of the old church building in April 2017. The village inhabitants stressed the unity, cooperation, and love of the nation during the challenges facing the country at the moment...

U.S. condemns crackdown in Ethiopia (AP) Ethiopia, a key U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism in North Africa, is again on the brink of chaos following the outbreak of large-scale protests that erupted last week. The demonstrations prompted the government to declare a state of emergency and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to submit his resignation amid the worst political crisis the country has faced in years...

Workers may have discovered ancient altar in Church of Holy Sepulchre (Aleteia) Greek workers and Israeli researchers may have discovered an ancient altar in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And it has been “hiding in plain sight” for centuries. “Leaning against a wall in a shadowy corner of Jerusalem’s [Church of the] Holy Sepulchre, the big blank rock the size of a dining-room table invited scribbling by passing pilgrims and tourists,” said Smithsonian magazine, noting that the piece was known to tourists as the “graffiti stone”...



20 February 2018
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Iraq discusses the plight of Christians in his country at Georgetown University in Washington. (video: CNS/YouTube)

Chaldean archbishop: Time to be honest with Muslims (CNS) If Christians in the Middle East are going to be “honest” with their Muslim dialogue partners, said Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, Muslims will have to acknowledge that the persecution of Christians in the region did not start with the Islamic State’s rise to power in 2014. “We experienced this not for the last four years, but 1,400 years,” Archbishop Warda said during a 15 February speech at Georgetown University in Washington, sponsored by the Religious Freedom Research Project of the university’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs...

Report: U.S. ambassador warns evacuation of settlements could start civil war (The Jerusalem Post) A forced evacuation of West Bank settlements could spark civil war in Israel, US Ambassador David Friedman told Jewish American leaders in Jerusalem, according to a report on Channel 10 News...

Patriarch urges faithful to eschew violence (The Hindu) Head of the Syrian Christian Church Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II called on the faithful to eschew violence and to resort to passive resistance to obtain justice. He said India, a land of tolerance, had set an example through Mahatma Gandhi in peaceful protest. In a televised message to thousands of Jacobite Syrian Church members here on the Patriarchal Day celebrations on Sunday, the Patriarch said he was one with the sufferings of the people in the Malankara Church and reiterated the unbreakable link between the Malankara Church and the throne of Antioch...

Muslim leader: Church shooting had ‘nothing to do with Islam’ (Radio Free Europe) The mainstream Muslim leadership in Russia’s Daghestan region has condemned an attack that killed five people outside a Russian Orthodox church, saying that the suspect had “nothing to do with the true Islam.” In a 19 February statement, the office of the region’s chief mufti also extended condolences to the relatives and friends of the victims of the attack the previous day in the Daghestani town of Kizlyar...

Search continues for missing Iranian plane (Vatican News) The wreckage of the Aseman Airlines plane is thought to be in the Zagros Mountains, but blizzard like conditions have hindered efforts to pinpoint the exact site of the tragedy. The domestic flight vanished from radars an hour after leaving Tehran Airport for city of Yasuj on Sunday...



16 February 2018
Greg Kandra




The video above offers a first look at the new church in Egypt dedicated to the Copts who were beheaded three years ago in Libya by ISIS. (video: World Watch Monitor/YouTube)

Church leaders in Jerusalem say no to taxation of church property (Vatican News) The Church leaders in Jerusalem have made a formal request to municipality of Jerusalem to withdraw their statement of imposing municipal taxes on Church properties. A statement released on Wednesday by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem states that the intention to impose municipal tax on Churches contradicts the historical position between Churches and civil authorities over the centuries. It further states that the civil authorities have always recognized and respected the great contribution of the Christian Churches, which invest billions in building schools, hospitals, and homes, many for the elderly and disadvantaged, in the Holy Land...

Pope to Maronites: Be a light for the people in your region (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Friday received staff and students from the Pontifical Maronite College here in Rome, telling them that these years of training were the foundation stone of their future as pastors in Lebanon and the whole of the Middle East. Greeting seminarians and staff on Friday, Pope Francis began by reflecting on the figure of St. Maron and invited them to follow the example of this Saint’s qualities of faith and love which, he said, were pure sources for today’s spiritually thirsty people...

Cardinal: don’t forget the suffering of Syria (Vatican News) The Vatican’s representative in Damascus, Cardinal Mario Zenari, has appealed to the international community not to forget the suffering people in Syria. In an interview with the Vatican Newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, the nuncio said there was a growing health emergency and food shortages in the country...

Egypt opens church dedicated to martyred Christians (Sight Magazine) It is a special day for the Coptic community of Minya province, Upper Egypt, as a new church was inaugurated this morning in Al-Our village in remembrance of 20 Egyptian Copts and one Ghanaian Christian beheaded by the so-called Islamic State on the Libyan coast three years ago on Thursday...



15 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Staffan de Mistura United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria at the United Nations on 14 February 2018.
(photo: Andalou Agency/Getty Images)


UN envoy: Civilians killed ‘on a horrific scale’ in Syria (Al Jazeera) The UN special envoy for Syria has given warning that violence in the country is the worst he has seen since taking the job four years ago. Staffan de Mistura’s remarks on Wednesday came as the US and Russia again traded blame at the UN over the ongoing conflict. “Civilians have been killed on a horrific scale — reports suggest more than 1,000 civilians in the first week of February alone,” he told the UN Security Council...

Russian Orthodox leader criticizes Trump decision on Jerusalem (The Moscow Patriarchate) Answering questions from Romfea, a Greek church news agency, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations (DECR), spoke on a number of issues concerning inter-Orthodox relations, the situation in the Middle East and the situation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church...

Hindu party in India offers to send Christians to Jerusalem for free (Almasdranews.com) The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), the ruling party of India, is trying to woo Indian Christians into voting for it by promising free pilgrimages to the holy sites in Jerusalem if the party breaks through further in upcoming elections...

Gaza’s only power plant shuts down over fuel shortage (The Times of Israel) The closure of the plant, which normally provides around a fifth of Gaza’s electricity, will exacerbate an already critical power shortage. Gaza’s two million residents receive only around four hours of electricity a day...

A ‘small miracle’ for Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Crux) Sana Samia is managing director of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archdiocese of Zahlé, Lebanon, but that’s a job title, not a description, of this 32-year-old married laywoman with a work ethic the size of Texas. What she really is, certainly in the eyes of the Syrian refugees she assists on a daily basis, is a miracle-worker...



14 February 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian children play in the street as a United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent inter-agency aid convoy arrives in the town of Utaya, in the eastern Ghouta, on 14 February. (photo: Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N. officials, church leaders decry escalating situation in Syria (CNS) As Syria’s war soon enters its eighth year, many decry the recent dangerous escalation in the conflict, whether in the country’s north, between Turkey and the Kurds, or in the south, between Iran and Israel. Speaking from the sprawling Zaatari Refugee Camp housing 80,000 Syrians near Jordan’s border with Syria, the head of the U.N. refugee agency condemned the recent Israeli-Iranian confrontation over Syria, which threatens to open a new and unpredictable front in the war…

U.N. chief launches two-year plan to fast-track Iraq reconstruction (U.N. News) United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday launched a reconstruction program for Iraq, urging the global community to support Iraqis as they embark on the journey to rebuild their country and make sure that it is committed to unity and inclusivity…

Site of Jesus’ baptism to be cleared of mines after half a century (Christian Today) An ancient site revered as the location where Jesus was baptised may be reopened to the public as a massive de-mining programme gets under way. Qasr al Yahud, about 6 miles east of Jericho, has seven churches along with chapels and monasteries, mainly built during the 1930’s during the British Mandate period. It was a popular pilgrimage spot until Israel blocked access to it in 1968…

Bishops say religious nationalism in India is self-annihilation (UCA News) Promotion of nationalism based on religion threatened India with annihilation, the nation’s Catholic bishops warned at the conclusion of a biennial meeting. The alarm was sounded following a series of hardline Hindu attacks on Christian and other religious minorities…



Tags: Syria India Iraq United Nations

13 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis and Patriarch Youssef concelebrate Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.
(photo: Vatican Media)


Pope Francis says Mass with Melkite Greek patriarch (Vatican News) Pope Francis concelebrated Mass on Tuesday morning with the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Youssef Absi. Instead of delivering a homily, Pope Francis said a few words about the meaning of the day’s celebration, at which members of the Melkite Greek Synod participated...

Damascus warns Israel of ‘more surprises’ (The Jerusalem Post) The Syrian government said on Tuesday that Israel would face “more surprises” in future attacks on Syria’s territory, after Syrian air defenses shot down an Israeli F-16 jet. Syrian anti-aircraft fire downed the F-16 as it returned from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria early on Saturday. Both Iran and Russia are supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s near seven-year civil war...

Hindu hardliners attack Christian schools in India (UCANews.com) Hindu hardliners have stepped up intimidation of Christian educational institutions in India, not least Catholic colleges. In one recent case, sheer numbers were used to break through a security cordon with the aim of performing a nationalistic ritual...

Worsening Ethiopia drought threatens to end nomadic lifestyle (AFP) Down a sandy track past a desiccated animal carcass lies a cluster of half-built huts that Ethiopia’s government and aid agencies hope will blunt the worsening toll of repeated droughts. The soon-to-be village of Dabafayed is intended as a new, permanent home for once-nomadic herders made destitute by the country’s back-to-back droughts. The lifestyle change is drastic but necessary, officials say...

An end to Gaza’s misery is as elusive as peace (The New York Times) Gaza has dissolved into such misery that Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, chief of staff of the Israeli Army, has warned the cabinet that it is on the verge of collapse and there is a real threat of another uprising...



12 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A picture taken on 12 February shows children gathering around their tent in the middle of Gaza City. This family, including eight children, left their apartment after the father lost his job and could no longer pay rent — another sign of the dire financial straits facing so many in Gaza.
(photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)


With Gaza in financial crisis, fears that ‘an explosion is coming’ (The New York Times) Across Gaza, the densely populated enclave of two million Palestinians sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, daily life, long a struggle, is unraveling before people’s eyes. At the heart of the crisis — and its most immediate cause — is a crushing financial squeeze, the result of a tense standoff between Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules Gaza, and Fatah, the secular party entrenched on the West Bank. Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority but was driven out of Gaza by Hamas in 2007...

Israel warns: Iran and Syria are playing with fire (The Jerusalem Post) Israel warned Syria and Iran Saturday morning that their attempts to escalate the situation in the north will bring the full force of the IDF upon them...

Indian cardinal expresses ‘anguish’ over increasing threats to pluralism (Catholic Herald) Cardinal Oswald Gracias, newly elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, has expressed “anguish” over increasing threats to pluralism in the country. “Intolerance is causing a certain amount of anxiety to us,” Cardinal Gracias said in Bangalore, while addressing a news conference at the end of the assembly of Indian bishops...

Pennsylvania town welcomes growing number of Coptic Christians (York Daily Record) They’d already left their homes in Egypt and landed in York, coming a distance of almost 6,000 miles. Now, after almost two years of worshiping in downtown York, a community of 80 Egyptian Coptic Christian families has found a new home for now — this time, in Dallastown, about seven miles down the road...



9 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Vincent Nichols, shown in this photo from 2016, has urged churches and business leaders to do more to tackle the problem of human trafficking. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Saber, EPA)

Cardinal Nichols: step up efforts to stop human trafficking (Vatican News) Churches, governments, police and business leaders must do more to tackle the growing phenomenon of human trafficking. That’s the view of English Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who is in the Vatican this week for a meeting of the ‘Santa Marta’ group on combatting modern slavery and trafficking...

Trump: recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was high point of presidency (Haaretz) In an interview for an Israeli newspaper, President Donald Trump said that his 6 December declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was the high point of his time in office. In the Hebrew-language translation of an excerpt from Trump’s interview with Israel Hayom editor-in-chief Boaz Bismuth, Trump said that both Israel and the Palestinians would need to compromise significantly to achieve peace. Trump said this in replying to Bismuth’s question on whether Israel would have to give something in return for the declaration...

New Russian police chief enlists Orthodox priests, churches to help stamp out crime in the force (The Moscow Times) A new police chief in southern Russia has reportedly ordered for his subordinates to visit churches in an effort to stamp out crime within the force’s ranks. The unorthodox orders came after Rostov-on-Don police officers were arrested for starting a drunken fight, causing a car accident and accepting a bribe in the past week, the local 161.ru news website reported Thursday...

Iraq seeks $100 billion for reconstruction (Reuters) Iraq is seeking around $100 billion in foreign investment in transport, energy and agriculture as part of a plan to rebuild parts of the country and revive the economy after a three-year war on ISIS...

Ethiopia to free hundreds of prisoners (Reuters) Ethiopia will release 746 more prisoners, including a journalist and a senior opposition official who were jailed for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, the attorney general’s office said Thursday. The decision follows a series of changes announced by the government to try to reduce tension in Ethiopia, which has been hit by unrest since 2015...

Cardinal Gracias elected new president of Indian Bishops’ Conference (Vatican News) Almost 200 bishops are attending the 33rd General Body Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), which is taking place at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences in Koramangala, Bengaluru...



8 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A picture taken on 8 February 2018 shows the exterior of the Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus, one of the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in the Syrian capital, reflected on the glass pane of a window that was broken after rebel mortar bombardment that struck the eastern Bab Touma neighborhood.
(photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)


Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate hit by gunfire (Fides) Mortar fire from armed groups still in control of the eastern outskirts of the city has hit central Damascus and in particular the area of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate in the Bab Tuma neighborhood, at least two dead and three wounded. The shooting took place on 5 February and reached the border area of the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral St. George where a group of Russian volunteers had recently distributed aid packages to the local population...

U.S. bombs government forces in Syria (BBC) The US has carried out rare air strikes on Syrian pro-government forces after what it called an “unprovoked attack” on allied Kurdish and Arab fighters. US officials estimated that 100 pro-government fighters were killed in the incident on Wednesday...

UAE donates money to avoid shutdown of Gaza hospitals (Times of Israel) The United Arab Emirates has donated $2 million to help keep United Nations medical services in Gaza afloat amid a severe fuel shortage, the UAE’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday...

Cardinal calls Church the great driver in Indian society (Herald Malaysia) For Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, the Catholic Church is “a great driver of the social sectors” in India where millions of people are touched by the “service offered by an army of volunteers.” Indeed, Catholics “are the face of the compassionate Jesus to the poor and the broken.” The cardinal made these comments at the Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) currently underway in Bengaluru, Karnataka (2-9 February) where he is the guest of honor...

Jerusalem plans promenade to link settlements (Haaretz) The city of Jerusalem and Jerusalem Development Authority are advancing a plan to build a promenade in the Mount of Olives connecting the two Jewish residential compounds in the Palestinian A-Tur neighborhood. A proposal for a visitors’ center on the Mount of Olives is also being advanced...







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