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




Security personnel investigate the scene of a bomb explosion on 9 April inside the Orthodox Church of St. George in Tanta, Egypt. That same day an explosion went off outside the Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria where Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II was presiding over the Palm Sunday service. (photo: CNS/Khaled Elfiqi, EPA)

Pope condemns Cairo terror attack (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis condemned the terror attack on a Coptic church dedicated to St. George — Mar Girgis — in the city of Tanta, north of Cairo, which killed upward of two dozen people and injured nearly 60 others...

Vatican official: Egypt attacks won’t stop pope’s visit (CNS) Despite recent and repeated terrorist attacks against Egypt’s minority Christian communities, Pope Francis will not cancel his visit to Egypt. “The pope’s trip to Egypt proceeds as scheduled,” Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service by email 10 April. The pope is scheduled to meet governmental and interfaith leaders during a 28-29 April visit to Cairo...

Christians and Muslims in Iraq march together for peace (Vatican Radio) This Holy Week in Iraq, Christians and Muslims will walk for 140 km [87 miles] through the Nineveh Plain in the name of peace and the end of violence in a once mostly Christian inhabited area. The peace march is supported by the Chaldean Patriarchate, which declared 2017 as “the Year of Peace...”

Christian worshipers flock to Jerusalem for Palm Sunday (Haaretz) Crowds of faithful gathered at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Many waved palm fronds to symbolize how worshipers greeted Jesus over 2,000 years ago as he triumphantly entered Jerusalem...

Christians in Kerala welcome Palm Sunday (Mathrubhumi.com) The Christian community in Kerala observed Palm Sunday with prayer meetings and processions with palm leaves...

In managing drought, Ethiopia serves as a model (The National) The Horn of Africa is suffering its worst drought in decades, with devastating humanitarian consequences. Two districts in South Sudan are officially in famine. Areas of Somalia and Yemen are on the brink. Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of death, while millions face severe disruption to their lives and livelihoods. The drought has affected Ethiopia too. In 2015, it experienced its most severe dry spell in 50 years, and there are fears that 2017’s rains will fail too. But in this East African country, once the poster child for poverty in Africa, no one is talking about famine. Unlike Somalia and South Sudan, Ethiopia is doing something right...



7 April 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian shepherds tend their flock near the damaged Shayrat airfield, struck overnight by U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles, southeast of the central and third largest Syrian city of Homs. (photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. launches cruise missiles on Syrian airbase (Al Jazeera) The United States on Friday fired dozens of cruise missiles at a government-controlled airbase in Syria, in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town that killed scores of civilians. The Pentagon said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from two warships in the Mediterranean at the Shayrat airfield in Homs province. At least six people were killed in the early morning strike, according to the Syrian army, which denounced the U.S. aggression as a violation of international law…

Catholic leaders in Syria criticize U.S. missile strikes (CNS) Two prominent Catholic leaders in Syria criticized the U.S. missile strikes against their nation, wondering why they occurred before investigations into the origins of chemical attacks reported on 4 April. “It is a shame that the United States administration didn’t wait until an honest United Nations investigation was thoroughly made into what is said to be a chemical air strike in Khan Shaykun,” said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph, excoriating “the agglomerate media and the supremacist policy of the USA.” Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, O.F.M., who serves Latin-rite Catholics in Aleppo, told the Rome-based Fides news agency that he was baffled by “the speed with which it was decided and carried out, without any adequate investigation into the tragic massacre with chemical weapons which took place in Idlib province.” He added that the attack “opens new disturbing scenarios for all…”

Are Francis and Trump now at odds over Syria too? (Crux) Until this week, it had been assumed that despite obvious differences over issues such as immigration and climate change, the Vatican under Francis and the White House under Trump at least agreed that now is not the time for an overt push for regime change in Syria. If “Assad must go” sticks as Trump’s line on Syria, then we may be able to add another item to the list of ways in which the White House under Trump and the Vatican under Francis don’t see eye-to-eye…

Gaza’s ailing health care system (Reuters) For many patients suffering from life-threatening diseases in the Gaza Strip, treatment in neighboring Israel or the occupied West Bank is a much sought-after option. But Israel tightly restricts Palestinian passage from the Gaza Strip. Gaza, an enclave of two million Palestinians, suffers from a chronic shortage of hospital beds, medical equipment and specialist physicians, says Ashraf al Qidra, a spokesman for Gaza’s Health Ministry…

Gaza’s only fisherwoman navigates dangerous waters (Al Jazeera) The world may not know her name, but anyone who has visited Gaza’s seaport will recognise Madleen Kullab. Although male colleagues initially belittled her, Kullab says she eventually proved herself through the volume of fish that she caught: “Some of them said that I must have a supernatural power that helped me,” she said with a wide smile. Like the rest of Gaza’s 4,000 fishermen, Kullab has struggled to make ends meet in the Israeli-defined six-nautical-mile fishing area to which they are limited…

Young priest returns to Iraq to bless his village (AINA) A newly ordinated priest has described returning to his home village in northern Iraq after it was finally liberated from ISIS extremists. The Rev. Martin Banni, who as a seminarian in August 2014 fled Karamlesh holding the Blessed Sacrament, reported to Aid to the Church in Need how he had just gone back to the village in the Nineveh Plain, carrying the Sacred Host. Father Banni, who is in his mid-20’s, described his joy at the homecoming to the village’s Church of St. Addai…

Justice denied to the Christian victims in Orissa (Fides) “There are many little-known and never recounted incidents which occurred in the district of Kandhamal,” says A.P. Saha, a judge of the High Court of Delhi, presenting a new research on anti-Christian massacres that occurred in Orissa in 2008. The research, signed and published by two authors, lawyers Vrinda Grover and Saumya Uma, offers unusual and unpublished stories, revealing the shortcomings in managing justice to the victims. “Justice was denied to the most vulnerable and marginalized people such as Adivasi and Dalit Christians. The poor and the marginalized do not receive justice: this is a serious matter of concern for all of us if we want to save the Indian Constitution. The old saying is really true: Justice delayed is justice denied…”



Tags: Syria India Gaza Strip/West Bank United States Indian Christians

6 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis meets at the Vatican with imams from Britain and tells them the most important thing is the capacity to listen. (video:Rome Reports/YouTube)

Pope meets with Catholic-Muslim delegation (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Wednesday with English Cardinal Vincent Nichols and four Muslim leaders from Britain who came to highlight the deep-rooted interfaith relations among the different religious communities in the UK today...

ISIS executes 33 in Syria (CNN) ISIS killed 33 people execution-style in eastern Syria on Wednesday, according to a monitoring group. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the terror organization carried out the mass killing in the the al-Mayadin desert near the strategic city of Deir Ezzor on Wednesday morning, it said, adding that its activists were “able to monitor” the incident...

With healthcare faltering in Gaza, more seek care in Israel (Reuters) For many patients suffering from life-threatening diseases in the Gaza Strip, treatment in neighboring Israel or the occupied West Bank is a much sought-after option. But Israel tightly restricts Palestinian passage from the Gaza Strip, one of its bitterest enemies. Although it exempts from the ban Gazans seeking “life-saving or life-changing medical treatment” if it is unavailable in the territory, crossing the border isn’t easy...

The Paschal Letter of His Beatitude Gregorios III (ByzCath.org) “Children of the Resurrection” is a beautiful title first used by Our Lord Jesus Christ in his discussion with a group of Sadducean Jews, who denied the resurrection of the dead. Christ countered their argument by saying that human beings after death “are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being children of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:36) He added, “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.” (Luke 20: 37-38; cf. Matthew 22: 31-32) For each of you, this means that because you have been created in the image and likeness of God, you are a child of God, life and resurrection...



5 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis condemns chemical bombing in Syria and the terror attack in Russia during his weekly General Audience on 5 April. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope decries horror of Syria attacks (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed to the consciences of local and international leaders to bring an end to the Syrian tragedy. Speaking during the weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said that it is “with horror” that we witness the events that have taken place in Syria...

Pope prays for victims and families of Russia bomb attack (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is praying for the victims of a bomb attack in Russia and for all those affected by the tragedy. Addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience, the Pope turned his attention to the “serious attack of the past days in the St. Petersburg subway,” which he said, caused victims and a sense of loss and confusion in the Russian population...

Franciscans launch initiative to combat violence against women in India (Fides) The Franciscans in India have launched a special nationwide campaign with this goal: to end violence against women through measures to prevent, stop and find remedies regarding its effects...

World’s first crowdfunded hospital to open in Aleppo (The London Economic) The World’s first crowdfunded hospital will open tomorrow in Aleppo. Hope Hospital, which was funded by 4,800 single donations from people all over the world, will open to treat the children of Aleppo sending a strong message of solidarity to the Syrian doctors (the Independent Doctors Association) who were rebuilding this children’s hospital for the seventh time after the six previous buildings had been bombed out of action...



4 April 2017
Greg Kandra




A Russian woman weeps as she lays flowers at a memorial 4 April in Moscow in memory of victims of a bomb blast the previous day in St. Petersburg. The metro attack, which killed at least 11 people and wounded dozens more, was carried out by a suicide bomber, said Russian officials.
(photo: CNS/Maxim Shipenkov, EPA)


Gas attack said to kill dozens in Syria (The New York Times) A toxic gas attack killed dozens of people in northern Syria on Tuesday morning, including women and children, and sickened scores more, according to medics, rescuers and witnesses in the rebel-held province of Idlib, who said the gas had been delivered by a government airstrike...

Russian Orthodox leader asks for prayers after St. Petersburg bombing (Premier.org) The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has asked for prayers for those impacted by a bombing at a metro station in St Petersburg on Monday. Patriarch Kirill said in a statement that there was never any justification for such an “impudent” crime...

Moscow archbishop laments ‘curse of terrorism’ after St. Petersburg bombing (CNA) Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Moscow offered his prayers and condolences following a deadly explosion in the St. Petersburg metro on Monday afternoon. “With deep sorrow, I learned about the villainous terrorist act in St. Petersburg, which killed nine people and caused suffering and grief to many people,” the archbishop said in a 3 April statement. “Together with all faithful Catholics and believers of other faiths and religions, I turn to God with a burning prayer for deliverance of Russia and the world from the curse of terrorism,” he continued. At least 11 people were killed, according to 4 April estimates, and dozens more injured in an explosion on the St. Petersburg metro Monday afternoon...

Report: Israel blocking access to Gaza (AP) An international human rights group on Monday accused Israel of barring foreign researchers from entering the Gaza Strip to document abuses, saying the restrictions call into question Israel’s stated commitment to investigating possible rights violations. In a 47-page report, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of “systematically” preventing its researchers from visiting Gaza since 2008, only granting them one exceptional permit last year. The group also said that Egypt has prevented it and London-based Amnesty International from entering Gaza from its territory since 2012...



3 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2015, a young Syrian mother who was displaced by violence holds her 2-year-old child outside their tent at an informal settlement in Deir al Ahmar, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Lebanon’s prime minister is warning this his country is close to the “breaking point” because of the strain of caring for refugees. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, CRS)

Lebanon ‘at breaking point’ due to refugees (Al Jazeera) Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has warned that his country is close to “breaking point” due to strains of hosting more than one million Syrian refugees, fearing that unrest could escalate due to tensions between refugees and local communities...

Priest visits Iraqi church destroyed by ISIS (CNA) The desolation of a burned Iraqi church left Argentine-born missionary Father Luis Montes with the firm conviction that Satan is at the root of the attacks, and Christians must pray for the conversion of ISIS...

Evidence of ISIS using human shields in Iraq (BBC) The BBC has seen evidence that so-called Islamic State (IS) has been using children as human shields as they fight to keep control of the Iraqi city of Mosul. BBC Persian correspondent Nafiseh Kohnavard and producer Joe Inwood had exclusive access to helicopter missions of the Iraqi military and witnessed the battle from above...

A journey into Syria’s secret torture wards (The Washington Post) In interviews across Lebanon, Turkey and Europe, more than a dozen survivors and army defectors described horrors in Syrian military hospitals across the country for which war crimes lawyers say they have struggled to find a modern parallel...

Kerala bishop issues pastoral letter for parents on modesty in church (Times of India) In the pastoral letter published in Idukki diocese bulletin, Idukki bishop urged girls to avoid wearing outfits shorter than knee-length while inside the church or on dais to read out the Holy Bible. He also asked women churchgoers who keep special clothes to be worn for prayers and rituals...

In Ethiopia, a search for the lost ark (Houstonia) Ethiopians claim that the ark was never lost, as is believed by most historians, but has been in their country for centuries. Whether that’s true or not is a matter of great speculation. According to legend and many historical records, the Queen of Sheba journeyed from Ethiopia to Jerusalem where she met King Solomon. One thing led to another and after Sheba returned to her country, their son Menelik I was born...



31 March 2017
Greg Kandra




Iraqis fleeing their homes in Mosul’s old city carry their belongings as they leave the fighting area on 30 March 2017. (photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N.: Palestinian population declines in Syria (AP) The U.N.’s Palestinian relief agency says Syria’s Palestinian refugee population has fallen by one-fifth since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011. UNRWA Director Pierre Krahenbuhl said Friday there are 440,000 refugees in Syria, compared to 560,000 in the country before the war...

Families trapped on the front line in Mosul (The Guardian) Those who made it out were the lucky ones. More than 2,000 civilians have been seriously injured in the battle, which began on 17 October with a push on the east side of the Tigris river and has now switched to the western bank, a densely packed maze of suburbs in which an embedded and ruthless enemy is giving no quarter...

Vatican launches interfaith charter promoting care for the elderly (Vatican Radio) An inter-faithCharter promoting palliative care for the elderly across the world has been launched at the Vatican. Religious leaders, patients and medics attended a conference to discuss future challenges of a rising elderly population and an increasing demand for social care...

Egypt’s Coptic Christians making pilgrimages to Jerusalem in record numbers (Fox News) After decades of pressure to not make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Egypt’s Coptic Christian population is now making such trips to Jerusalem at a record pace. The number of Egyptian tourists to Israel has nearly doubled to 7,450 from 4,428 between 2014 and 2016, according to Religion News Service...

All signals point to another war in Gaza (Bloomberg News) The next war in Gaza is coming. In over five years as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, I found no issue more impervious to solutions than Gaza. We were constantly preventing, managing or responding to crises — trying to head off terror attacks by Hamas and others, supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, negotiating ceasefires and working to alleviate human suffering...

The rise of the Russian Orthodox Church (CNN) In the nearly 26 years since the Soviet Union’s collapse, the role of the once-persecuted Russian Orthodox Church has transformed dramatically. The church has now become a defining characteristic of Russian identity actively promoted by the Kremlin. “With the collapse of communist society, there was a great void,” said Alexander Dugin, chief editor of Tsargrad TV, a Russian Orthodox channel. “The only way to fill this void was to return to the pre-communist values. And pre-communist values were Christian Orthodox...”



30 March 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugees play in the Zaatari camp in Jordan, which shelters some 80,000 Syrian refugees. (photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

Resettlements proceeding as Syrian refugee total tops five million (UNHCR) As the number of men, women and children fleeing six years of war in Syria passes the five million mark, the international community needs to do more to help them, the U.N. refugee chief said today. “We still have a long road to travel in expanding resettlement and the number and range of complementary pathways available for refugees,” said Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees…

Lenten charity in violence-hit Kashmir (UCAN-India) Catholics in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state have decided to use money saved by their Lenten sacrifices to help people affected by recent violence in the Muslim-majority region. “Our family doesn’t eat much during this period; we abandon buying expensive things and whatever is saved out of this exercise we give to the poor,” said Peter Soney, a Catholic parishioner in Kashmir, a troubled region bordering Pakistan…

Pope to interreligious Iraqi group: ‘Abraham our common father’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday greeted the members of a delegation from the Iraqi Supervisory Boards and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. “Your visit is a true, fraternal richness, and is, therefore, a path towards peace among all, peace in the heart, in the family, in your country, and in the world,” the pope told the group in a private audience. The Iraqi Supervisory Boards are made up of Shiites and Sunnis, as well as Christians, Yazidis and Mandaeans, and are part of a Permanent Committee for interreligious dialogue…

Ethiopia extends state of emergency by four months (Al Jazeera) The Ethiopian parliament has extended by four months a state of emergency it declared six months ago after almost a year of anti-government demonstrations. The widely expected extension comes amid reports of continued violence and anti-government activities in some rural areas. At least 500 people were killed by security forces during the year of protests…

Will Christians soon be enrolling at Egypt’s Al Azhar? (Al Monitor) On 6 March, parliament member Mohamed Abu Hamed announced his intention to submit to parliament a proposal amending the law that regulates Al Azhar affairs. The proposal is designed to affiliate nonreligious faculties at Al Azhar University — such as the faculties of medicine, engineering, media and communications — with the Ministry of Higher Education instead of Al Azhar institution, which would subsequently allow Christian students to enroll in these faculties…

U.N. refugee agency urges search missions after latest shipwreck in Europe (U.N. News Center) With nearly 150 people dead or missing in another shipwreck off the Mediterranean coast, the United Nations refugee agency today stressed the importance of saving lives at sea. “This latest tragedy comes as a stark reminder of the vital importance of robust search and rescue capacities,” said Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk of UNHCR…



Tags: Syria India Egypt Refugees Ethiopia

29 March 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




A young Mosul civilian, injured during the ongoing conflict between government forces and ISIS, receives treatment at a field hospital. (photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

Engulfed in battle, Mosul civilians run for their lives (New York Times) Around a half-million people are still thought to be trapped in an ever-shrinking area of Mosul, along with an estimated 2,000 remaining Islamic State fighters. There, they are caught in a frightening crossfire. As Iraqi forces have advanced, American airstrikes have at times leveled entire blocks — including the one in Mosul Jidideh this month that residents said left as many as 200 civilians dead. At the same time, the Islamic State fighters have used masses of civilians as human shields, and have been indiscriminate about sniper and mortar fire…

As ISIS is driven out, Iraqi Assyro-Chaldeans dream of returning home (AINA) The cost of rebuilding Christian villages destroyed by ISIS in northern Iraq could exceed $200 million, according to a survey carried out by a Catholic charity. But, with some Christians already going back to the Nineveh Plain, the report revealed a growing appetite among the displaced communities to go home…

Pope Francis renews appeal for prayers for Iraqi people (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has asked for prayers for the people of Iraq, also appealing for all in Mosul to “engage fully with the civil protection forces, as an imperative and urgent obligation…”

Coptic pope attempts to reassure Egyptians after attacks (AINA) Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II attempted on Monday to reassure Egyptians after the recent attacks on Copts in North Sinai, stressing that the Coptic families that have fled the governorate out of fear of terrorist violence will return to the city “when the time is right…”

Palestinians get ‘right to return’ — to Jerusalem (Al Monitor) The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem cannot be permanently stripped of their residency rights after having lived elsewhere…

Ancient church discovered in Georgia (Pravoslavie) The ruins of an ancient one-nave church have been discovered in Ilto’s Gorge in the village of Chartali of the Akhmeta municipality, in the Kaheti region, northeast of Tbilisi. The municipal cultural center also reports that traces of a settlement have been observed in the surrounding area, reports Blagovest-Info. According to cultural center head Kakha Mamulashvili, Ilto’s Gorge is practically unstudied from a cultural heritage point of view…



Tags: Iraq Palestine Iraqi Christians Jerusalem Georgia

28 March 2017
Greg Kandra




A member of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspects the Tabqa dam on 27 March 2017. A Russian general has accused the U.S. of targeting Syria’s infrastructure, including this dam.
(photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)


Russian general claims U.S. targeting dam in Syria (AP) A senior Russian general on Tuesday criticized the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants for allegedly targeting Syria’s infrastructure — including a key dam — in territory held by the Sunni extremist group. Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the military’s General Staff accused the coalition of trying to “completely destroy critical infrastructure in Syria and complicate post-war reconstruction as much as possible...”

Report: ‘alarming pattern’ in U.S.-led strikes in Mosul (AP) A recent spike in civilian casualties in Mosul suggests the U.S.-led coalition is not taking adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths as it battles Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants alongside Iraqi ground forces, Amnesty International said on Tuesday...

Syrian refugees selling sex to survive in Lebanon (BBC) Lebanon has long been known as a sex tourism capital in the Middle East, but it’s an industry which is exploiting Syrian refugees. Benjamin Zand meets those who say prostitution is their only way to survive, and finds out how Eastern European women in “super night clubs” are being locked up, by law, every day...

Christian graves vandalized in India (AsiaNews) Crosses taken down; tombstones smashed: at least ten Christian tombs were vandalized in the Rajapur Allahabad cemetery (Uttar Pradesh), as shown in a video published and provided by the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). Its president, Sajan K. George, told AsiaNews: “The violence against Christian tombs deeply hurt our religious feelings and show contempt for our ancestors. “This is done with the culture of impunity, and with intent to cause insecurity and fear in the minds of the minisucule Christian community. As can be seen, crosses have been broken, and epitaphs of nearly a dozen graves have been smashed...”







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