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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
26 April 2017
Greg Kandra




A cross above a church is seen alongside minarets of a mosque on 17 April in Cairo ahead of Pope Francis’ visit later this week. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)

Copts, Muslims expected at Mass celebrated by Pope (Fides) Copt Catholic Bishop Antonios Mina says Copt Orthodox Christians will be present at the Mass celebrated by the Pope, as well as many Muslims...

In TED talk, pope urges people to make real connections (CNS) While searching for a connection today often means looking for Wi-Fi, Pope Francis said real connections between people are the only hope for the future. “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” he said in a video talk played 25 April for 1,800 people attending TED 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and posted online with subtitles in 20 languages...

France says it has evidence Assad was behind Syrian chemical attack (The Washingon Post) Samples from a deadly sarin attack in Syria bear “the signature” of President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program, French officials said Wednesday. The announcement marks the strongest evidence yet that Assad’s government was responsible for the daybreak attack on the northwestern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun earlier this month which killed at least 86 people, many of them as they slept...

In Mosul, a battle against ISIS and time (The New York Times) Every day, for weeks, the battle to take western Mosul from the Islamic State has looked like this: a block-by-block crawl as casualties mount...

Bishops in India meet with government official to discuss anti-Christian harassment (Crux) Seven bishops from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have met with the chief minister of the state to discuss the recent disruptions of Christian places of worship in the state. In recent months, right-wing activists from the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) have stopped services and harassed worshipers in the state, which is India’s largest, accusing churches of trying to convert the local Hindu population to Christianity...

‘Poor man’s kebab’ is Gaza’s most treasured food (The Electronic Intifada) Every morning after I open my store, I buy falafel and hummus for breakfast. It’s the most popular meal in our market because of its reasonable price and high nutritional value,” said Arafat Ashour, 44, the owner of a produce stand at al-Zawya market, one of the oldest markets in Gaza. “I eat it with my friend who works with me. Sometimes customers join us.” Its ingredients may be humble, but falafel enjoys a high status in Gaza...



25 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, an expert on Islam offers analysis on the pope’s upcoming trip to Egypt. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis sends video message to Egyptians (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Egypt ahead of his apostolic journey to the country, saying the “world needs peace, love and mercy”…

Tight security is ‘new normal’ ahead of papal visit (CNS) Despite the ongoing risk of terrorism, Pope Francis planned to travel to Egypt as a sign of being close to the people there, said Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman. Heightened security is part of the “new normal” in many countries, but even in the wake of the Palm Sunday attacks in Egypt, it is the pope’s desire “to go ahead, to also be a sign of his closeness” to those affected by violence and all the people of Egypt, Burke told journalists on 24 April…

Iraqi troops capture largest neighborhood in Mosul (AP) A senior military commander says Iraqi troops have driven out Islamic State militants from the largest neighborhood in the western half of the city of Mosul. Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al Saadi told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the sprawling Al Tanek neighborhood “is fully liberated and under full control” of the security forces. Al Saadi didn’t provide more details…

American killed on monitoring mission in Ukraine (Reuters) A member of the European monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine was killed and two others were injured Sunday when their vehicle drove over a mine near Luhansk. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which runs the monitoring mission, said it was investigating. The monitor who was killed was an American man, according to a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of Austria, which holds the rotating presidency of the 57-nation organization. The man’s name was not released…

Christianity could be restricted in parts of Ethiopia (Christian Today) Christianity could be outlawed in Ethiopia for smaller congregations and house churches where worshippers meet for less formal prayer or smaller services. Tigray State, in the north of Ethiopia, is considering changing its laws to ban Christian activities outside official church compounds, reports World Watch Monitor…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia

24 April 2017
Greg Kandra




During a prayer service at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew in Rome on 22 April, Pope Francis greets Roselyne Hamel, sister of the Rev. Jacques Hamel, who was killed in Rouen, France, last year. (photo: CNS/Maurizio Brambatti, pool)

Pope pays tribute to modern martyrs (CNS) The church today needs believers who witness each day to the power of God’s love, but it also needs the heroic witness of those who stand up to hatred even when it means giving up their lives, Pope Francis said. At Rome’s Basilica of St. Bartholomew, a shrine to modern martyrs, Pope Francis presided over an evening prayer service 22 April, honoring Christians killed under Nazism, communism, dictatorships and terrorism...

Here’s what is left of Aleppo (Los Angeles Times) A sense of relative stability has descended on the district, despite vast expanses of pancaked buildings, rubble-strewn streets and walls perforated with bullet holes and shrapnel scars. Some residents who fled during the war years have returned, and there is a halting sense of renewed life on the streets. But the area remains largely depopulated. And no one dares say that the war is ending anytime soon…

IKEA launches initiative to give jobs to thousands of refugees in Jordan (Curbed.com) IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, can get a bad rap for igniting relationship disputes and making hard-to-assemble wares. But the Sweden-born store also recognizes that with massive power comes massive opportunity for doing good. Case in point: The company has teamed up with Jordan River Foundation, a non-governmental organization founded by Queen Rania of Jordan, to launch an ambitious employment initiative projected to hire some 200,000 impoverished people around the globe in the next 15 years…

Kerala bishop opposes bill to govern church property (Vatican Radio) The Latin rite archbishop of Kerala, in a letter dated 15 April has urged the government not to interfere in the administration of church properties. Archbishop M. Soosa Pakiam, president of Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, wrote to the secretary of the Kerala State Minority Commission to assert the fundamental right of Christians to manage and administer church property…



Tags: Jordan Kerala Catholic Aleppo Martyred

21 April 2017
Greg Kandra




A woman and children attend an Easter liturgy in Mar Yohanna Church in the nearly deserted, predominantly Christian Iraqi town of Qaraqosh near Mosul. (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Celebrating Easter in an Iraqi town that has lost its Christians (New York Times) Islamic State militants overran the Christian town of Qaraqosh nearly three years ago, smashing every crucifix they found and using the walls of churches for target practice. Residents fled by the thousands, and the few who stayed were forced to spit on images of the Virgin Mary. This weekend, my colleagues and I attended Easter service in Qaraqosh, which has long been a center of Christian life in Iraq, hoping to find signs of rebirth. Instead, we drove through what looked like a ghost town…

Holy See ‘deeply concerned’ over Middle East situation (Vatican Radio) The Holy See has expressed deep concern over the current situation in the Middle East and reiterated its support for a two-state solution in Palestine…

ISIS claims credit for Paris attack (The Independent) A note expressing support for ISIS has been found near the body of a gunman who shot a police officer dead in the center of Paris. Sources within the investigation told news agencies of the discovery as a probe continued into the chief suspect, a 39-year-old Frenchman who was the subject of a previous terror investigation. Police also found a pump-action shotgun and knives in his car, showing the attacker was armed for an extended assault. ISIS swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack, giving the perpetrator a war name indicating he had links in Belgium and hailing him as a “fighter of the Islamic State”…

Indian police rescuing women from sex traffickers (Vatican Radio) In a unique gesture, police in the Indian state of West Bengal are going beyond the call of duty by raising funds for the women they rescue from sex traffickers to help them get back on track…

Holy Fire from Jerusalem delivered to Washington, D.C. (Sputnik) The Holy Fire from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has been delivered to Washington, D.C., Archpriest Victor Potapov, rector at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist told Sputnik…



Tags: Iraq India Palestine Iraqi Christians France

20 April 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al Sisi shake hands during a private audience in 2014 at the Vatican. Pope Francis will visit Cairo next week and meet with the Egyptian president, among others. (photo: CNS/Gabriel Bouys pool, via Reuters)

Egypt arrests 13 suspected of planning attacks (CNA) Egyptian police on Sunday arrested 13 people who were allegedly planning attacks against Christians and public institutions in the country…

Hope and fear ahead of pope’s visit to Egypt (Canadian Catholic News) Fanatics are stepping up their fear campaign against Christians in Egypt in an attempt to derail Pope Francis’ visit at the end of the month, say the Canadian directors of two Catholic aid agencies working in the country. The pope’s visit will include meetings with the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, the Grand Imam of the Mosque of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed al Tayyib and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al Sisi. “The extremists don’t want the pope to meet with the highest Muslim authority of Egypt,” said CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association) Canada national director Carl Hétu…

Catholic bishops in India urge worship rights for all (Fides) The Catholic Bishops Conference of India on 19 April urged the federal government to ensure that every citizen enjoys the basic right to worship…

Satellite dishes connecting Mosul to the world (AFP) Satellite dishes have been sprouting on the rooftops of east Mosul since it was retaken from ISIS, who punished anyone caught with a dish with the lash. “Now we know what is happening in the world,” Muhammad Turki says as he installs one in the Al Qahira district…

Gaza’s only power plant runs out of fuel (The Independent) The only power plant in the Gaza Strip has ceased producing electricity after running out of fuel, crippling the entire enclave with massive power cuts. Around two million people in the territory are now coping with just two to four hours of power a day, leaving schools, hospitals and businesses unable to operate fully…

Pope names auxiliary bishop from Ukraine to head Chicago-based eparchy (CNS) Pope Francis has named Ukrainian-born Bishop Venedykt “Valery” Aleksiychuk as bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago. Bishop Aleksiychuk, 49, has been auxiliary bishop of the Archeparchy of Lviv, Ukraine, since 2010…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank United States

19 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo reflects on the crisis facing Christians in Syria. (video: Rome Reports)

Cairo peace conference to include Pope Francis, Eastern Christian leaders (CNS) Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was scheduled to attend a peace conference in Cairo with Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad al Tayeb, grand imam of Al Azhar University…

Terrorist attack near historic Sinai monastery (Fides) Gunmen opened fire on an Egyptian police checkpoint near Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai late on Tuesday 18 April, killing one policeman and wounding four officials. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. After an exchange of gunfire, the attackers fled the scene, and some of the gunmen were wounded in the shootout…

Vatican releases itinerary for papal trip to Egypt (CNS) Pope Francis will meet with the leader of one of the world’s leading Sunni Muslim institutions, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church and representatives of the Catholic Church on a two-day trip to Cairo…

Syria resumes evacuations after deadly bombing (BBC) Evacuations from two government-held areas of Syria have resumed, monitors and reports say, days after an attack on a convoy carrying evacuees killed 126 people, many of them children. Some 3,000 people have left the north-western villages of Fua and Kefraya, which have been surrounded by rebels…

Making a splash on Easter Monday in Transylvania (The New York Times) Young men in Sancraieni have risen early on Easter Monday for as long as anyone can remember. So have the women and girls — to be soaked in ice-cold water and sprayed with patchouli. “Sprinkling” is a spring rite in the heart of Transylvania, in central Romania, when women are watered like flowers. The water, freshly drawn from a well, is believed to secure health, beauty and perhaps even love for the women who find themselves beneath a bucketful of it…



Tags: Syria Egypt Pope Francis Eastern Europe

18 April 2017
Greg Kandra




A Christian worshiper lights candles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

Pope Francis prays for persecuted Christian communities (Vatican Radio) On Easter Monday Pope Francis greeted pilgrims and visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square, praying especially for Christians who are persecuted for their faith…

Pope Francis offers message to city and the world (Vatican Radio) “Jesus is risen!” — “He is truly risen, as he said!” Those were Pope Francis’ words as he delivered his traditional Urbi et Orbi (“to the city and the world”) message from the central loggia of St Peter’s Basilica on a sunny Easter Sunday…

Report: U.S. strike hit Syrian mosque (CNN) A new report suggests American forces failed to take necessary precautions to avoid dropping a pair of bombs on a Northern Syria mosque full of hundreds of worshipers. Syrians said the U.S. airstrikes hit a western Aleppo mosque on 16 March, killing at least 40 worshipers and injuring dozens more. The U.S. said the bombings targeted a meeting hall hosting Al Qaeda terrorists…

Mideast church leaders affirm Christian presence at Easter (CNS) In Easter messages, Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East deplored the widespread carnage and suffering, yet affirmed the presence of Christians in the region by calling upon their faithful to carry on with hope…

What life is like for Iraqis fleeing Mosul (Al Jazeera) As the Iraqi government’s military offensive against ISIS rages on, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes. Since the push to regain control of the western half of Mosul began on 19 February, the Iraqi government estimates that more than 220,000 people have been displaced. About 70 percent of these people are living in overstretched, underdeveloped refugee camps, according to the United Nations…

Coptic Christians mark Easter in the shadow of ISIS (AP) As Christians around the world celebrate Easter Sunday, eight million of them will be praying alongside security checkpoints, police guards and the threat of religious violence. This is the fate of the Coptic Christians of Egypt — an ancient religious minority whose persecution today is “the worst it has ever been,” according to analysts…

Orthodox and Catholics celebrate Easter on same day (RT) This year, followers of the Orthodox and Catholic churches are celebrating Easter on the same day. The next time the two churches will share Easter celebrations won’t be until 2025…



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Easter

13 April 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis raises the Book of the Gospels as he celebrates Holy Thursday chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 13 April. He will celebrate a special liturgy in memory of “new martyrs” next weekend. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope to celebrate liturgy for ‘new martyrs’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will celebrate a special Liturgy of the Word in memory of the “New Martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries on Saturday, 22 April. A communique from the Holy See Press Office said the prayer will take place in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiberian Island, which is located in the heart of Rome on the Tiber River...

U.S. strike on Syria raises moral questions (CNS) The U.S. cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base days after chemical weapons were dropped on civilians in rebel-controlled territory further endangers innocent people, observers familiar with the just-war theory said. If anything, the observers told Catholic News Service, the unilateral U.S. response could embolden Syrian President Bashar Assad to undertake future attacks, exposing more lives to harm — including those of people fleeing the violence...

Confronting suffering and hope in Syria (CNS/CNEWA) Fifteen Franciscan friars continue to live and work in Syria; two of the friars minister in towns controlled by Islamic State forces. The Rev. Michael Perry, minister general of the Franciscans, visited most of the friars the first week of April, but he could not enter areas controlled by Islamic State or by forces opposed to the government of President Bashar Assad...

Egypt names suicide bomber at Coptic church (Reuters) Egypt has named the suicide bomber who attacked a cathedral in Alexandria, describing him as a fugitive with links to militant cells that carried out previous strikes in the country. Mahmoud Hassan Mubarak Abdullah detonated his explosives at the entrance to Saint Mark’s Cathedral, the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, on Palm Sunday, killing 17 people as mass was being conducted...

Packed Iraq morgue reveals toll of Mosul conflict (Reuters) The stench hits you long before you reach the morgue where the latest casualties of war between Islamic State militants and Iraqi forces are kept. Doctor Mansour Maarouf dons a surgical mask as he approaches the morgue refrigerator and pauses before pulling open the door to an icy blast. “In the name of God,” he says out of respect for the dead. Inside, around two dozen corpses lie on the floor: some in body bags, several wrapped in blankets and a few so torn to pieces they come in sacks...

Christians prepare for Easter in Russia (Asia News) This year Russian Catholics and Orthodox Christians are preparing together in Easter services. As happens every five or six years, in 2017 the date of Easter coincides for all Christian denominations. The Great and Holy Week — as it is called in the Byzantine Rite (also the title of “Authentic Week” or “Passion”) — began three days ago with crowds of faithful gathered with the willow branches (the olive tree does not grow in Russia) in procession around the Orthodox churches, but also Catholic ones (about 300 across the country)...



12 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2016, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad is greeted by an elderly Iraqi woman after a prayer service at the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ainkawa. The patriarch this week released his Easter message to the Iraqi people.
(photo: CNS/Amel Pain, EPA)


Chaldean patriarch: Let the Easter flame not be turned off in your hearts (Vatican Radio) The Chaldean patriarch in his Easter message released on 9 April in Baghdad highlights the suffering and daily grief endured by Christians in Iraq and the world. The Chaldean Catholic Church has dedicated 2017 as the Year of Peace. For the patriarch, Holy Week culminating in the Easter celebration offers a fresh hope to breathe new life into prayer and reflection, reconciliation and dialogue...

Coptic patriarch: The massacres on Palm Sunday “were a test for the faith of Egypt’s Christians” (Fides) Pope Tawadros is sorrowful and deeply saddened, it is not easy to speak with him. This was how Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Primate of the Copt Catholic Church expressed to Fides the feelings of many baptized Egyptians, after the carnage perpetrated last Sunday by suicide bombers in two Coptic Orthodox churches...

Holy Week for Copts will never be the same (Al Jazeera) Immediately following the twin bombings in Egypt that killed at least 40 Christians last Palm Sunday, the country’s president Abdel Fattah El Sisi released a statement saying “the attack ... will only harden the determination (of the Egyptian people) to move forward on their trajectory to realise security, stability and comprehensive development.” But just four months ago, another attack in Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral that killed at least 25 Christians did not bring Egyptians closer to security or stability...

Syrian nun honored by State Department says U.S. bombing is step back (CNS) Two weeks after the U.S. State Department honored her as a Woman of Courage, a Salesian sister from Syria told reporters President Donald Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian air base is another step back from peace...

Easter plight of India’s Christians (Herald Malaysia Online) Even on Palm Sunday and Holy Week before Easter, there are reports of incidents of violence, intimidation and harassment against Christians in India, a discriminated minority oppressed by the majority Hindus...

Russian cosmonaut says he has taken relics of saints into space (AP) A Russian cosmonaut who has returned to Earth after a mission on the International Space Station said on Wednesday he had taken a relic of a Russian Orthodox saint with him. Astronauts and cosmonauts routinely take small items such as their children’s toys or CD’s with them as reminders of home. Sergei Ryzhikov told Russian news agencies that he would give the tiny relic of St. Serafim of Sarov’s body, which he received from its home monastery last year, to an Orthodox church in Star City outside Moscow, home to the cosmonaut training center...



11 April 2017
Greg Kandra




Security personnel investigate the scene of the 9 April bomb explosion outside the Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria, Egypt. (photo: CNS/EPA)

Coptic bombing victims to be honored at vigil (Vatican Radio) The Community of Sant’Egidio will hold their annual ecumenical prayer vigil on Tuesday, remembering especially the Coptic Christian martyrs and all those who are persecuted and killed for their faith...

Grief and desperation in Coptic community after Palm Sunday attack (CNN) Egypt’s Coptic Christians have spoken of their sadness — and their fears for the future — a day after terrorists targeted two churches packed with parishioners celebrating Palm Sunday. At least 49 people were killed in bombings at two churches in Tanta and Alexandria, the latest sectarian attacks one of the country’s most imperiled religious minorities. “We feel more angry today than we ever did before, and we feel desperate,” says Coptic Egyptian rights activist Mina Thabet. “Nothing is changing. The Copts feel very vulnerable and that no one cares about them...”

Clashes rock Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon (BBC) At least six people have been killed and 35 others wounded in clashes inside a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon since Friday, medics say. The fighting erupted when a joint security force deployed by the main Palestinian factions in Ein el-Hilweh came under fire from radical Islamists...

Fire destroys migrant camp in France (Vatican Radio) On Monday near Dunkirk in northern France, a large fire engulfed the Grande-Synthe migrant camp, which housed between 1,000 and 1,500 people in tightly-packed wooden cabins. French officials say the fire was caused by a fight that broke out between the Afghans and the Kurds living in the camp on Monday afternoon. Ten people were injured, including six who sustained wounds from the fight. Reports say riot police intervened and clashed with 100 or 150 migrants...

Winner of Rome marathon grew up in a Catholic mission in Ethiopia (Fides) Rahma Chota Tusa has won the Rome female Marathon for two years running. Rahma was born in Kofale, Ethiopia, where she grew up and trained at the Catholic Mission Sports Centre in Kofale, until she moved to the athletics team in Adama. “Rahma is one of 25 international level athletes who come from our breeding ground, she grew up with us and now lives in Addis Ababa,” said Fayisa Gameda, who works in the office of Kofale Catholic Mission...

Byzantine monk and nun debut cooking show (Aleteia.org) At a time when Christians are supposed to be “giving up stuff,” what are a monk and a nun doing in the kitchen cooking tasty meals? All Lent long, the two religious have been producing weekly cooking programs, tempting viewers to think about food rather than encouraging them to practice self-denial. But there’s more to their web-based program, Eastern Hospitality, than meets the palate...







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