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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
9 March 2017
Greg Kandra




This photo shows some of the damage caused by a fire Wednesday inside the Church of the Ascension in Jerusalem. (photo: Instagram)

Church of the Ascension damaged by fire (Times of Israel) One person was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of breaking into a landmark Jerusalem church and trying to set it on fire earlier in the day, police said, noting that the incident did not appear to have been a religiously motivated attack...

Marines add forces to Syria (Reuters) A U.S. Marines artillery unit has deployed to Syria in recent days to help local forces speed up efforts to defeat Islamic State at Raqqa and the campaign to isolate the city is going “very, very well,” the U.S.-led coalition said on Thursday. Coalition spokesman U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian said the additional U.S. forces would be working with local partners in Syria — the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Arab Coalition — and would not have a front line role...

Chaldean Patriarch: Let us copy the distinction between religion and politics from the West (Fides) Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Primate of the Chaldean Church, suggested the key criteria that according to him are necessary to follow to make sure that the end of military campaigns against the jihadists of ISIS open a phase of real reconciliation and national reconstruction: “We must separate politics from religion, as the West,” insisted the Patriarch, “otherwise we will have no future...”

Photos reveal what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee in Turkey (The Washington Post) For the past four years, photographer Emin Ozmen has been documenting the plight of Syrian refugees living in Turkey. According to the United Nations refugee agency, there are more than 2.8 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey. And more than half of them are children...

Why is ISIS targeting Copts in Sinai? (Al Monitor) An official at the national security department in north Sinai told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that IS is changing its tactics by attacking civilians at times and security officers and policemen at other times, while security “is slackening in collecting intelligence information” regarding the organization’s activities. Many of Sinai’s citizens are not cooperating with the police and the national security for fear of retaliation by ISIS...



8 March 2017
Greg Kandra




In this picture from 2015, Syrian refugees are seen at a makeshift camp in Adana, Turkey. The Jordanian ambassador to Turkey says in a new interview that Turkey and Jordan are shouldering most of the burden of caring for Syrian refugees. (photo: CNS/Nathalie Ritzmann)

Holy See calls for respect for religious freedom (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic spoke to a high-level side event on Tuesday at the UN entitled “Mutual Respect and Peaceful Coexistence as a Condition of Interreligious Peace and Stability: Supporting Christians and Other Communities.” The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva called on participants to recognize religious freedom as a fundamental human right...

Ambassador says Turkey, Jordan shoulder most of Syrian refugee crisis (Andalou Agency) Jordan and Turkey continue to shoulder most of the burden in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, according to Jordanian ambassador to Turkey. In an interview with Anadolu Agency on Monday, Amjad al-Adaileh said Turkey has accepted over three million and Jordan 1.3 million refugees since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011. “We [Jordan and Turkey] are the countries that welcome and accept Syrian refugees. Our brothers and sisters will remain as guests in these two countries until this crisis ends,” he said...

ISIS loses key Aleppo water station (BBC) Syrian government forces have retaken a key water pumping station in Aleppo, a monitoring group said. Residents have been without mains water for nearly two months since the so-called Islamic State group cut it off...

Drugs pouring in to Gaza (Reuters) Marijuana and prescription painkillers are flooding into the Gaza Strip as never before, prompting officials from the ruling Islamist group Hamas to seek tougher punishments for smuggling drugs into the blockaded territory. The quantity of drugs seized In Gaza in January was as much as for the whole of 2016, officials said. Eight major dealers were arrested in one of the biggest police stings to date...

Indian Catholics continue prayers for kidnapped priest (CNS) A year after an Indian priest was abducted by suspected Islamic militants in Yemen, Catholics in his home state of Kerala are still praying for his release, reported ucanews.com. Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil was taken by a group of armed men who stormed a home for the elderly run by Missionaries of Charity nuns in Aden, 4 March 2016. During the incident the gunmen murdered 16 people, including four nuns. Even after one year, “we don’t know who kidnapped the priest and where they have taken him. The government of India and the Vatican have been trying their best to secure his release. Sadly, these efforts have failed to produce any results so far,” said Cardinal Baselios Thottunkal of Trivandrum, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India...



7 March 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan explains why it is important for Christians to remain in the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)

A council of Christian communities takes shape in Kirkuk (Fides) The appeal repeatedly launched by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I to Iraqi Christians not to proceed “in random order” on the political and social ground, but to try to merge their forces in one “component” is beginning to have its first effects. On Monday, 6 March, the creation of a “Council” of Christian communities that proposes itself as a liaison between the different political and social organizations took shape in Kirkuk...

Report: Syrian children suffering staggering levels of trauma (The Guardian) Children in Syria are suffering from “toxic stress,” a severe form of psychological trauma that can cause life-long damage, according to a study that charts a rise in self-harm and suicide attempts among children as young as 12. A report by Save the Children and its partner agencies in Syria paints a harrowing picture of the country’s children, 5.8 million of whom are in need of aid, after a war which reaches its sixth year next week...

New U.S. travel ban blocks migrants from six nations, excluding Iraq (The New York Times) President Trump signed an executive order on Monday blocking citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, the most significant hardening of immigration policy in generations, even with changes intended to blunt legal and political opposition. The order was revised to avoid the tumult and protests that engulfed the nation’s airports after Mr. Trump signed his first immigration directive on 27 January. That order was ultimately blocked by a federal appeals court...

New travel ban meets with concern, opposition (CNS) Within hours of President Donald Trump’s new executive order 6 March banning refugees from six majority-Muslim nations, Catholic and other religious groups joined secular leaders in questioning the wisdom of such a move, with others vowing to oppose it outright...

Patriarch: corruption is a ‘social leprosy’ (Fides) “The state of corruption, ethical degradation, political feudalism that the country is suffering from, the prioritization of personal and sectarian interests is hindering the enhancement of the state institutions and pose a deadly social leprosy.” This is what Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai said in his weekly Sunday sermon at the patriarchal seat of Bkerké, with an obvious reference to the political and social situation in Lebanon...

Archbishop Pizzaballa sends letter to the people of Jerusalem (Vatican Radio) The Apostolic Administrator for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., has sent a letter to the people of the diocese at the beginning of the season of Lent. Archbishop Pizzaballa, formerly the Franciscan “custos” of the Holy Land, was appointed apostolic administrator in July 2016. In his Lenten letter, the Archbishop acknowledges mistakes made in the Patriarchate, especially concerning financial and administrative matters...



6 March 2017
Greg Kandra




Displaced Syrian children, who fled their hometowns due to clashes between regime forces and ISIS, walk in a field in Kharufiyah, on 4 March 2017. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N. says 66,000 displaced in Syria (AP) Five months of multi-sided clashes in Syria’s crowded northern battlefield have displaced some 66,000 people, a U.N. humanitarian agency said Sunday, a day after the U.S. bolstered Kurdish-led forces with a deployment of armored vehicles amid preparations for a push toward the Islamic State group’s de facto capital...

Patriarchate releases statement on Patriarch Gregoire III (Fides) A note released by the communications office of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the Greek-Melkite reports that Grègoire Patriarch Laham III continues to carry out his role, is preparing to launch “new projects” and plans to “double his efforts at local and international levels,” to “alleviate the suffering of the population in the ongoing crisis, especially in Syria, Iraq and Palestine.” The statement makes explicit reference to articles published in the local media, containing hints of the possible resignation of the Patriarch, and reprimands media representatives to publish news only after checking the reliability...

Egypt’s Christians are being driven out; will the world notice? (CNA) A spike in attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt, spurred by a video threat from ISIS, has drawn the prayers and concern of advocates, who are urging global leaders to take notice...

Egyptian professor says defending churches against attack is part of Islam’s doctrine (Fides) Attacks on churches are comparable to “attacks on mosques,” and the defense of Christians and their churches “is part of the doctrine of the Muslim faith,” according to Professor Mohamed Mokthtar Gomaa, Minister of Awqaf, citing the teachings of Ibn Hazm, the Arab theologian in the Andalusian period, leading proponent and codifier of the Zahiri school of Islamic thought...

Kerala as an example of ‘interfaith peace and harmony’ (AL.com) Birmingham psychiatrist Dr. N.S. Xavier believes the world would have less religious strife if people of all faiths learned the lessons of a region in India where Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Jews co-existed peacefully for centuries...

A visit to Ethiopia reveals Biblical mysteries (Winnipeg Free Press) In 2017, Protestants are marking the 500th anniversary of Reformation. It seems like a big deal until you visit Ethiopia and meet members of a church that traces its origins as far back as 2,000 years ago...



2 March 2017
Greg Kandra




Displaced Egyptian Christian families, who used to live in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, sit near their belongings after arriving 24 February at a church in Ismailia. Catholic churches in Ismailia, with help from Caritas, have helped Coptic Orthodox fleeing Islamic State attacks in North Sinai.
(photo: CNS/EPA)


Coptic Christians flee Sinai after killings (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority have fled the Sinai Peninsula to Ismailia city, northeast of the capital Cairo, following a series of killings by a local armed group. The assailants have shot and killed at least seven Christians in separate attacks in Sinai’s El Arish city in February. At least 90 families have reached the Ismailia governorate, according to an official of the Coptic Orthodox Church...

Egyptian president meets with Patriarchs (Fides) Religious leaders, in the current historical phase, have a key role in spreading the principle of citizenship in all Arab countries, and reject false interpretations of holy books and religious teachings used by extremist and terrorist organizations as ideological tools. This is how Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi expressed his view on the need to “renew religious discourse” in the Middle East...

Situation for Iraqi refugees in Jordan ‘critical and dangerous’ (CNS) Catholic leaders have expressed concern for tens of thousands of Iraqi Christian refugees sheltering in Jordan as access to international aid tightens with crises deepening in the Middle East and elsewhere. “The situation of Iraqi Christians refugees is critical and dangerous,” Father Khalil Jaar told Catholic News Service on the sidelines of a conference hosted by the Vatican Embassy in Amman and the Catholic charity, Caritas Jordan...

Prayers planned for kidnapped Indian Salesian (CNS) The Salesians have organized a special prayer meeting to mark the one-year anniversary of the kidnapping of Indian Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil. The priest was kidnapped in Aden, Yemen, 4 March 2016, in an attack in which four Missionaries of Charity and at least 12 others were killed...

Russian Catholics hope for a new springtime for small Byzantine church (CNS) One of the smallest Eastern Catholic churches in the world, the Russian Catholic Church, faces some big issues, including its survival. That’s the issue that will be front and center at a Congress of Russian Catholic delegates from around the world meeting in northern Italy in June. It has been organized by an Australian-based Russian Catholic priest, Father Lawrence Cross, a retired lecturer in theology at Australian Catholic University...



2 March 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis announces his prayer intention for March: to help persecuted Christians. (video: The Vatican/YouTube)

Pope’s prayer intention for March: Support for persecuted Christians (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ prayer intention for March is Support for Persecuted Christians: That persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church...

UN: Both sides committed war crimes in Syria (Al Jazeera) Both sides in last year’s battle for Syria’s Aleppo city committed war crimes, including a “deliberate” bombing of a humanitarian convoy by the Syrian government, according to a new United Nations investigation. The UN Commission of Inquiry’s report released on Wednesday said Syrian government and allied Russian forces “pervasively used” unguided munitions to bomb densely populated areas in rebel-held eastern Aleppo between July and its fall on 22 December, amounting to the war crime of indiscriminate attacks...

Iraqi forces fight ISIS counterattack (Reuters) Islamic State fighters launched a counter-attack against advancing U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in western Mosul during an overnight storm, as the battle for control of the militants’ last major urban stronghold in Iraq intensified. Explosions and gun fire rang out across the city’s southwestern districts in the early hours of Thursday. The fighting eased in the late morning, although a Reuters correspondent saw an air strike and rebel mortar fire...

Kerala facing worst drought in a century (Deccan Chronicle) Revenue minister E. Chandrasekharan has painted a grim picture of the drought situation in the state. He said that already 30,353.06 hectares of agricultural land have been destroyed by drought, which according to him could be the “worst in the century”...

Head of Russian Orthodox church slams social media “disease” (Calvert Journal) Yesterday Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, showed worshipers at Moscow’s Epiphany Cathedral that he might be more tech-savvy than we give him credit for, decrying Russian young people’s obsession with social media. According to Patriarch Kirill, young people desperate for approval on social media are suffering from a “real disease.” Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the religious leader sees this issue as rooted in vanity...



1 March 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita




CNEWA’s Msgr. John Kozar visits Father Mario da Silva and the religious who live and work in Gaza during a pastoral visit in 2016. (photo: CNEWA)

Attacks on Copts ‘a message from ISIS’ (Al Jazeera) The latest string of attacks in northern Sinai’s El Arish against Coptic Christians were indirect attempts by armed groups to undermine the government, according to Egyptian experts and analysts…

Judaism and Christianity have a history marked by violence (Agenzia Fides) Even “Judaism and Christianity have a history of violence,” and all religions have been complicite in acts of violence and murder. This is how Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyib, grand imam of Al Azhar, wanted to highlight that the connection between religion and violence not only marks the history of Islam, but also characterized the historical paths of the two other “Religions of the Book”…

Bitter Lent for the Syrian churches, many priests have fled (Agenzia Fides) The Christians of Syria are preparing to live a “bitter Lent,” and among the many factors of suffering and sorrow afflicting the churches of Syria there is the fact that many priests who during the years of civil war left the country, depriving the remaining faithful of their pastoral comfort…

For Gaza priest, a forgotten people sees hope (AsiaNews) People in Gaza “live day by day” in a situation that “is becoming more desperate.” Many residents, including Christians, have been forced “to borrow” to buy some food and electricity,” this according to the Rev. Mario da Silva, a Brazilian priest who heads the Latin Catholic Holy Family Church, the only one in the Strip…



28 February 2017
Greg Kandra




Several Melkite bishops boycotted the bishops’ synod last June, demanding the resignation of Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, pictured at the Vatican in 2015. The Melkite synod will resume later this year. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Reconciliation marks Melkite synod (CNS) The Melkite Catholic Church resumed its Synod of Bishops after nearly an eight-month interruption. The bishops thanked “the divine redeemer for the spirit of reconciliation and renewed commitment to walk together in partnership to restore peace in the church” in a statement released at the conclusion of the three-day meeting on 23 February at the patriarchate in Rebweh, Lebanon...

Iraq army seizes key Mosul bridge (CNN) The Iraqi army says it has recaptured a bridge across the Tigris River in west Mosul, where fierce battles are ongoing to oust ISIS from its last bastion in Iraq...

Pope: Catholics and Anglicans are brothers and sisters in Christ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday visited the Anglican Parish of All Saints in Rome. Speaking at the Church the Pope said, “today, with gratitude to God, we recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ, through our common baptism. As friends and pilgrims we wish to walk the path together, to follow our Lord Jesus Christ together...”

India’s home minister honors Catholic priest (Vatican Radio) India’s home minister has honoured a Catholic priest on the occasion of Arunachal Pradesh’s 31st statehood day. Salesian Father Cyriac Pulinthanathumalayil of Dimapur province received a state award Gold Medal for Excellence in Youth work from home minister Minister Rajanath Signh at a function on 20 February in the state capital of Itanagar...

Living history in Ethiopia (Huffington Post) The chanting of the two boys sitting under the tree reminded me of my Bar Mitzvah class over 60 years ago. The language was different — Amharic, not Hebrew — as was the religion — Ethiopian Orthodox, not Jewish — and the boys bore little resemblance to the pudgy, pasty pre-adolescent friends of my youth, but the sounds were eerily similar...

How the Oscars put Syria in the spotlight (The Washington Post) Sitting 7,000 miles from the fuss and frills of Sunday’s Academy Awards, it was Raed Saleh, dressed in a simple T-shirt, who delivered one of the most powerful messages of the night. In a short acceptance speech — posted online after a documentary about his Syrian White Helmets rescue force won an Oscar — the former electrical equipment salesman appealed to governments around the world “to stop the bloodshed of the Syrian people...”



27 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita




An Egyptian woman comforts an elderly Coptic Christian lady who weeps upon arriving to take refuge at the Evangelical Church in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya on 25 February 2017. Dozens of Coptic Christians have left Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after a string of jihadist attacks killed three Christians in the restive province, church officials said. (photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt’s Coptic Christians flee Sinai after killings (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority have fled the Sinai Peninsula to Ismailia, about 70 miles northeast of the capital Cairo, following a series of killings by a local armed group...

Salafists condemn the 7 targeted killings of Copts in North Sinai (Agenzia Fides) The spokesman of Al Nur, the ultra-conservative Salafi Party, have publicly expressed its condemnation of targeted killings against Coptic Christians that took place in northern Sinai, stressing that they “go against the teachings of Islam”...

‘It is not without a tear ... that I leave Jerusalem’ (LPJ.org) Bishop William Shomali addresses the Jordanian faithful and calls to mind the main challenges that lie ahead...

Armenian Catholicos convenes a summit to solve dilemma in Constantinople (Agenzia Fides) Patriarch Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, convened at the Patriarchal See of Echmiadzin, in Yerevan, some of the protagonists of the dispute in place with regards to the next election of the Armenian Apostolic patriarch of Constantinople, in an attempt to resolve the situation...



24 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita




Christian pilgrims visit Bethany Beyond the Jordan, which marks the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus. (photo: CNEWA)

Tourism of the Hashemite Kingdom focuses on ‘Christian places’ (Fides) - Biblical religious tourism and especially national “Christian heritage” are increasingly at the center of the Jordanian government strategies to encourage the flow of foreign visitors to the Hashemite Kingdom...

Another Coptic Christian found dead in northern Sinai (Fides) A 40-year-old Coptic Christian was found dead with a gunshot to the neck, in the Egyptian town of Al Arish, capital of Northern Sinai, on Thursday, 23 February...

Pope Francis to rabbis: Torah manifests God’s paternal love (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received his long-time friend from his native Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, on Thursday, along with a delegation of Jewish leaders involved in the preparation of a new edition of the Torah. The annotated, illustrated edition is already being hailed as an achievement in both the literary and visual arts...

Vatican, Al Azhar ask world to help stop religious extremism, terrorism (CNS) The Vatican and Al Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s leading institution of higher learning, called for the world’s governments, organizations and leaders to cooperate with each other in countering extremist and violent groups, noting that such groups “have negatively impacted stability and peaceful coexistence among peoples...”

Iraqi Christians erect large cross in area liberated from ISIS (CNA/EWTN News) After years of darkness, hope has returned to Telekuf-Tesqopa. Located just 17 miles from Mosul, the village is rebuilding after being liberated from ISIS. As a visible sign of the rebuilding, a giant cross was erected on a hill, marking the victory of the Christian faith against the darkness of the jihadists...

Christians and Muslims on a peace march in Iraq (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has launched a ‘Peace March’ on Palm Sunday “open to Christians and Muslims,” which “will set off from Erbil and end in Alqosh” in the Nineveh Plain. People will be “on foot for one day” calling for an end to violence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East...







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