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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
15 November 2016
Greg Kandra




Italian Cardinal-designate Mario Zenari has been nuncio to Syria since 2008. He will be one of 17 new cardinals consecrated by Pope Francis at a Vatican consistory on Saturday 19 November. The Vatican’s Secretary of State says this is a sign of the Pope’s closeness to the people of Syria.
(photo: CNS/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)


Humanitarian agencies call to protect civilians in Mosul (Vatican Radio) Innocent civilians in the embattled city of Mosul are being caught in the crossfire and isolated from the outside world. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Iraq is calling for greater protection of civilians trapped inside of Mosul. Since the military offensive began on 17 October to recapture city from ISIS, more than 50,000 people have fled. The number of displaced civilians has increased drastically over the past week, totaling more than 20,000 compared to just 6,000 the previous week...

Syria’s new cardinal a sign of Pope’s closeness (CNA) Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said that Francis’ decision to give a red hat to the longtime papal envoy to Syria is a sign of the Pope’s closeness to the Church and people on the ground amid the country’s dire situation...

Muslim attacks on Christians in Egypt on the rise (The Independent) Attacks against Christians have intensified as mistrust between Christians and Muslims deepens. Today, community leaders and human rights activists say the smallest of matters are setting off violence, often pitting neighbor against neighbor. At a time when President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s government is jailing its opponents and struggling to revive a sinking economy, the violence adds a new layer of populist frustration: Christians strongly supported Sissi’s rise, expecting him to protect them after the former army general led a coup that toppled the Islamists...

Jewish-Muslim alliance formed against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia (RNS) The day after president-elect Donald Trump appointed a man accused of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as his chief strategist, two of the nation’s largest Jewish and Muslim advocacy groups formed an unprecedented partnership to fight bigotry...

Turkey rebuilds mosques in Gaza (Andalou Agency) Turkey’s Religious Affairs Presidency Foundation has rebuilt nine mosques destroyed during Israel’s military onslaught on the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2014, an official statement said on Tuesday. The Religious Affairs Directorate announced in a statement the mosques in Gaza were now ready to be used by the Muslim community...

Icon reproduction enshrined in historic Chicago cathedral (OCA.org) His Grace, Bishop Paul and a number of clergy and faithful were present as a reproduction of the Wonderworking Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God was enshrined in Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago on Wednesday, 9 November 2016...



14 November 2016
Greg Kandra




The image above, from a 2015 BBC video, reportedly shows ISIS militants destroying some of the ruins of Nimrud in Iraq, near Mosul. Iraqi troops retook the town over the weekend.
(photo: BBC/AFP)


Iraqi troops enter town where ancient ruins were destroyed (ABC News) Iraqi troops entered a town south of Mosul on Sunday where Islamic State militants destroyed artifacts at a nearby ancient Assyrian archaeological site, while special forces fended off suicide bombers during a cautious advance into the northern city. The push into Nimrud was the most significant gain in several days for government forces, potentially opening up the area for teams to assess the damage done to the famed ruins just outside the town...

Syrian rebels reportedly losing Aleppo battle (AP) Syrian government forces regained control Saturday of areas they lost over the past two weeks to a rebel offensive on the edge of the northern city of Aleppo, ending a major attempt by insurgents to break the siege on eastern parts of the city, an activist group and pro-government media said...

Joint initiative between Vatican and Al Azhar to begin in 2017 (Fides) A coordination committee linked to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Center for Dialogue of the University of Al Azhar, the most authoritative academic and theological center of Sunni Islam, has started the first joint initiative between the two institutions after the resumption of direct dialogue: a seminar study on problems related to the presence of religious communities in the context of civil society...

Syrian refugees regret move to Gaza (AP) Like millions of Syrians, Wareef Hamedo fled the civil war in his homeland in search of safety and security. But in a decision he now regrets, he chose to go to Gaza. Hamedo’s family is among 12 Syrian households that found refuge in Gaza after the civil war erupted in 2011 and are now trapped in the war-battered territory, ineligible for most social services granted to Palestinians but also unable to travel abroad...

Identity crisis at an Indian Catholic church (NPR) It’s a familiar battle in any immigrant community: The older generation fears extinction, while the young people rebel against stagnation. But to this church, this faith, that fear of loss is twofold. The Syro-Malabar community is Indian and Catholic in equal measure. Parents worry that if their children lose their faith, they will also lose an intrinsic part of their culture...



10 November 2016
Greg Kandra




Internally displaced children sit in a pickup truck 25 October near Mosul, Iraq. Iraq forces are closing in toward Mosul’s airport. (photo: CNS/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

Iraqi forces prepare push into Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi security forces are preparing to advance toward Mosul airport on the city’s southern edge to increase pressure on Islamic State militants fighting troops who breached their eastern defenses, officers said on Thursday...

U.S. Says it has killed 119 civilians in Iraq and Syria (The New York Times) The United States has killed 119 civilians in Iraq and Syria since it began military operations against the Islamic State there in 2014, military officials said Wednesday. In each case, the American military followed the proper procedures and it did not violate laws of armed conflict, officials said...

Syria’s Assad is ‘ready’ to cooperate with Donald Trump (The Independent) Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “ready” to cooperate with the US President-elect Donald Trump, one of Mr Assad’s advisers has said. Speaking to National Public Radio on Thursday — just after Mr Trump’s seismic victory in the US general election — Bouthaina Shaaban said any collaboration on Syria’s almost six-year-long civil war will depend on “whether Mr. Trump’s policies meet expectations...”

Pope says the search for Christian unity is a top priority (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis revealed on Thursday that the search for Christian unity is one of his principle concerns, one that he prays may be shared by every baptized person. The Pope’s words came as he met in the Vatican with participants at a plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The meeting, from 8 to 11 November is exploring the theme “What model of full communion?...”

Indian priest tries to preserve sacred music (New India Express) The Rev. Joseph Palackal is trying his best to preserve the memories and the melodies. He comes to Kerala every year to meet people who are able to capture the melodies of the Syriac songs. “But the time is running out,” he says. “Most of the stalwarts are losing their memory or passing away...”

Publishers participate in Coptic Book Fair (Fides) There are 37 publishing houses involved these days in “Coptic Book Fair,” underway until 22 November at the exhibition hall in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. The inauguration, which took place on Tuesday, 8 November, was attended by three Bishops of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, including Anba Musa, in charge of the pastoral and cultural initiatives for young people...



9 November 2016
Greg Kandra




Raban Boutros Kassis, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo, is recovering from gunshot wounds he received after being attacked in his car by a sniper. (photo: Fides)

Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo wounded (Malaysia Herald) Staring death in the face is an experience that can awaken the faith even in those who do not believe in God. For the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo Raban Boutros Kassis, therefore, this sensation was all the more intense and today he says he feels a profound closeness to Christ. Two days ago, he miraculously escaped death after a sniper shot at him as he traveled by car from Homs to Aleppo...

Iraq reportedly suspends military operations near Mosul (Anadolu Agency) Iraq’s anti-terrorism agency has temporarily suspended military operations in the eastern part of the Daesh-held city of Mosul while stressing that Iraqi forces were not being withdrawn from the area, according to an Iraqi military source...

My Journey into Aleppo (The New York Times) I took these videos and photographs last week while on a bus tour of western Aleppo that was part of a government public relations offensive. There were 12 journalists, three Ministry of Information minders (government workers assigned to keep tabs on us and those we talked to) and maybe a dozen soldiers...

Lebanon’s new president receives Iran’s Foreign Minister (AP) Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday became the first foreign minister to visit newly appointed Lebanese President Michel Aoun, underscoring the ties between Iran and Aoun’s Hezbollah-backed presidency. The Shiite militant group and predominantly Shiite Iran are close allies. Speaking alongside his Lebanese counterpart, Zarif said recent political developments in Lebanon can be the key to breaking the deadlock in wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen...

Lebanon boosts schooling to help refugee children (SBS.com) It’s estimated there are a quarter of a million Syrian refugee children in the country who currently don’t have access to school. With more than half a million Syrian children taking refuge in Lebanon, the country is looking to foster better educational opportunities for all young people. New research, aimed at developing ways to offer better access to schools, has been announced...

Ukraine hopes for continued support from U.S. under Trump (Reuters) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he hoped the United States would continue to support Ukraine in its stand-off with Russia following the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election...



8 November 2016
Greg Kandra




An Iraqi Christian soldier wearing a rosary stands inside the badly damaged Church of the Immaculate Conception on 2 November in Qaraqosh, near Mosul.
(photo: CNS/Alaa Al-Marjani, Reuters)


Christians struggle to survive amid wreckage left by ISIS (The Independent) The 28,000 people from Qaraqosh who stayed inside Iraq have understandable doubts about going home, even if Isis is fully defeated and loses Mosul. “There is no security while ISIS is still in Mosul,” says Yohanna Towara, a farmer, teacher and community leader in the town, but even when ISIS is gone the Christians will be vulnerable. He says that “the priority is for us to control our local affairs and to know who will rule the area in which we live.” He adds that the need for permanent security outweighs the need to repair the destruction wrought primarily by Isis but also by US-led air strikes...

Iraqi experts investigate mass grave near Mosul (BBC) Iraqi forensic experts are investigating a mass grave that was discovered by troops advancing towards the Islamic State-held city of Mosul. The Iraqi military has said the grave, in the grounds of an agricultural college in the town of Hamam al-Alil, contains about 100 decapitated bodies...

Syrian rebels battle near Aleppo (Reuters) The Syrian army said it had taken a strategic district of Aleppo on Tuesday, in what would be the most important advance in the divided city by Damascus and its allies in weeks, but rebels said the battle was not over. The 1070 Apartments district is located on the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo and lies alongside the government’s corridor into the parts of the city that it controls...

Egypt church construction law labeled ‘regressive’ (Daily News of Egypt) The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an NGO concerned with human rights, discussed in a press conference Wednesday the downsides of the Church Construction Law, issued in August, arguing that the law is regressive for religious freedoms...

Refugee life in Lebanon empowers Syrian women (Ya Libnan) For some Syrian women living in Lebanon, the bitter realities of life as a refugee have nourished an unexpected side effect: empowerment. Difficult economic and legal circumstances have pushed women to take on more responsibilities within their families, including many that were once a man’s domain. Uprooted from some familiar social constraints and exposed to programs promoting women’s rights through contact with aid groups, some of them have obtained a degree of personal autonomy they never experienced in Syria...



7 November 2016
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, greets children after celebrating Mass on 6 November at Holy Family Church in Gaza City. The cardinal said his pastoral visit reinforced the importance of Christian hope, especially for those living in very insecure circumstances.
(photo: CNS/Mohammed Saber, EPA)


Battle for Mosul becomes urban combat (NBC News) As Iraqi forces struggle to secure the gains they made over the past week on Mosul’s eastern edge, the fight against ISIS has quickly morphed into close-quarters urban combat. With it, casualties among Iraq’s troops and civilians are spiking...

Displaced Syrians fear returning to their homeland (AP) Syria’s government says people who fled rebel zones that have since been retaken by the military are now welcome to return. But that’s not how it worked out for one refugee family that came to check out the state of their home: They found another family had moved in. That’s just one of many hurdles keeping away those displaced in Syria’s war...

Cardinal: faith reassures Christians in Gaza (CNS) English Cardinal Vincent Nichols said his pastoral visit to Holy Family Parish in Gaza reinforced the importance of Christian hope, especially for those living in very insecure circumstances. “It is very encouraging to witness the faith of the community of Christians living in that enclosed space and also in the midst of a huge Muslim community majority,” said Cardinal Nichols, Westminster archbishop and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. “They live day by day, and their faith is a reassurance for them”...

Pope Francis raises awareness about scourge of human trafficking (Vatican Radio) On Monday, Pope Francis spoke out against human trafficking, in an address to members of RENATE: Religious in Europe Networking against trafficking and exploitation). The group is in Rome for their 2nd European Assembly, which took place on Sunday. The theme of this year’s assembly was “Ending Trafficking Begins with Us”...

Patriarch: do not delay in forming government in Lebanon (Fides) The economic and social emergencies that mark the present situation of Lebanon do not allow any delays or postponement in the formation of a government that would help the country. This is what was strongly emphasized by Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, during his homily yesterday, Sunday, 6 November, six days after the election of former general Michel Aoun for the office of President of the Lebanese Republic, vacant for almost two years and a half...

Nobel laureates to meet in Delhi to discuss children’s issues (Vatican Radio) Nobel laureates and eminent leaders around the globe will meet in the Indian capital New Delhi next month to discuss why children suffer the most in conflicts though they don’t cause them, Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi said on Thursday. “Children are never responsible for any wars, conflicts or violence, yet they are the worst sufferers in any such hideous situation. This is completely unacceptable,” he said while announcing a global initiative for children...



4 November 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a priest from Aleppo says Christians are the targets of many attacks
in the city. (video: Rome Reports)


Humanitarian pause begins in Aleppo (The New York Times) A temporary halt in fighting announced by Russia to allow Syrian rebels and residents to leave the besieged eastern parts of Aleppo went into effect on Friday, with activists reporting a relative calm in the city. However, by early afternoon, state media said seven mortar shells from the rebel-held side of the city hit one of the corridors opened for those wanting to leave eastern Aleppo. The State TV said a correspondent for a pro-government station was wounded by shrapnel...

Iraqi forces push deeper into Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi special forces recaptured six districts of eastern Mosul on Friday, a military statement said, expanding the army’s foothold in the Islamic State bastion a day after its leader told his jihadist followers there could be no retreat. An officer in the elite Counter Terrorism Service, which has spearheaded the Mosul offensive, said its troops had launched a major operation against the militants who are now almost surrounded in their last major urban redoubt in Iraq...

Why Christianity’s holiest shrine is guarded by two Muslim families (The Washington Post) Two Muslim families were entrusted by a presumably weary Arab potentate to be the gatekeepers of the church. The Joudeh family keeps the key, while the Nuseibeh family opens up the church door every morning and locks it in the evening. In an interview with CNN earlier this year, Adeeb Joudeh, the current keeper of the key — an old, cast-iron object that’s a foot long — considered his family’s hereditary task to be a metaphor for religious tolerance...

The human tragedy unfolding in Gaza (The National) Gaza has experienced three wars in the past decade, each more devastating than the last. I last visited Gaza in 2009, six months after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. I found an enclosed territory and population struggling to adapt to Hamas rulers and recovering from devastated homes and lives. The 2014 conflict, that killed more than 2,250 Palestinians — hundreds of them children — and left thousands permanently injured, along with the deaths of 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians, still reverberates in Gaza; another war, just around the corner, is always feared...



3 November 2016
Greg Kandra




Iraqis living in Gokceli neighborhood, east of Mosul city center, pile on the back of a truck as they flee the area for Hazir camp during the operation to retake Iraq’s Mosul from ISIS
on 3 November 2016. (photo: Idris Okuducu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Iraqi troops inside ISIS-held Mosul for first time since 2014 (CNN) Iraqi forces have entered ISIS-held Mosul for the first time in more than two years and are battling ISIS militants on the front line, defense officials told CNN...

Rebel groups clash in Aleppo (Reuters) Syrian rebel factions fought each other in besieged eastern Aleppo on Thursday, officials from two of the groups and a war monitor said, potentially undermining their efforts to fend off a major Russian-backed offensive. Rebel groups have been plagued by disunity and infighting throughout the 5 1/2-year-old conflict, for ideological reasons, over tactical differences or in disputes over territory...

Pope calls for peaceful encounter of religions (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday urged representatives of different religions to foster a peaceful encounter of believers and genuine religious freedom. Speaking to some 200 people gathered in the Vatican for an interreligious audience, Pope Francis reflected on the soon- to-end Year of Mercy saying that mercy extends also to the world around us, “to our common home, which we are called to protect and preserve from unbridled and rapacious consumption”...

Clashes at Western Wall (Fides) Riots between ultra-Orthodox Jews and Jews belonging to the “conservative” and egalitarian Judaism, occurred on Wednesday, 2 November at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City...

Sisters run orphanages after Ethiopia cuts back adoptions (Global Sisters Report) Though Catholics make up less than 1 percent of the population in Ethiopia, Catholic sisters have always had a strong presence in the country, especially in the area of children’s orphanages. The Missionaries of Charity sisters alone had 19 orphanages, including hundreds of children in their central orphanage in the capital of Addis Ababa. Many other congregations, including the Daughters of Charity, the largest congregation in Ethiopia, also had dozens of orphanages...

Bells toll once again to proclaim Alaskan community’s faith (OCA.org) It was literally music to the ears of many residents of King Cove, a remote Aleut fishing community of about 950 year-round residents on the Pacific side of the Alaska Peninsula, when the bells of Saint Herman Church were installed and rang for the first time several weeks ago...



2 November 2016
Greg Kandra




A young displaced Iraqi leads his animals to safety on 1 November after escaping from the ISIS-controlled village of Abu Jarboa, near Mosul. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)

Iraqi troops secure foothold in Mosul (BBC) Iraqi forces are securing their foothold in the city of Mosul, moving from house to house to clear areas of Islamic State (IS) militants. Soldiers and special forces paused their advance on Wednesday, a day after pushing into the eastern outskirts. A BBC journalist says they are moving with caution, amid fears of ambushes, secret tunnels and booby traps...

Russia tells rebels to leave Aleppo by Friday evening (Reuters) Russia on Wednesday told anti-government rebels holed up in Syria’s Aleppo to leave by Friday evening, signaling it would extend a moratorium on air strikes against targets inside the city...

In news conference, Pope Francis speaks on immigration, refugees (CNS) In one of his briefest airborne news conferences, Pope Francis spent just over 40 minutes with reporters and answered six questions ranging from Sweden’s newly restrictive immigration policy to the role of women in the church. He also was asked about his experience with charismatics and Pentecostals, the roots of his concern about human trafficking, secularization in Europe and his meeting in late October with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Christians must never close their hearts to refugees and migrants, but governments have a duty to regulate the flux of newcomers as they allocate resources to ensure their integration into society, he said...

Vatican speaks out on human rights at U.N. (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, on Monday addressed the UN General Assembly on the promotion and protection of human rights. His intervention touched on a number of issues, including the “right to life of the unborn, of migrants in search of safety, of victims of armed conflicts, of the poor, of the elderly and the right to life of those facing the death penalty...”

Hindu groups criticize Vatican directive that bans scattering of ashes (News18.com) A Vatican directive barring Catholics from scattering ashes of the dead, a central practice among Hindus, has raised the hackles of Hindu organisations, who slam it as narrow-mindedness and an unnecessary restriction on the faithful from adopting best practices based in science only because its origins lie in other religions...

Russian Orthodox Church backs ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ (BBC) The Russian Orthodox Church has come out in support of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in the face of calls from hardline Christian activists for it to be banned. Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida says that while works like the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical might give rise to disputes and discussions, “it is not right to forbid an artist from drawing inspiration from the Holy Scripture...”



28 October 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Celebrations break out in town as Iraqi government forces continue to advance toward Mosul, meeting fierce resistance. (video: Al Jazeera)

ISIS pushed out of town near Mosul as advance continues (Al Jazeera) Kurdish and Iraqi government forces have pushed ISIS out of the northern town of Fadiliya, which lies about two miles away from Mosul, the group’s last major urban bastion in the country…

Chaldean patriarch visits the liberated towns of the Nineveh Plain (Fides) His Beatitude Patriarch Louis Raphael I, accompanied by his auxiliary Bishop Basileo Salim Yado, visited the five Christian towns of the Nineveh Plain already released in the concerted military operations that aim at reconquering Mosul, the northern-Iraqi city that has become since June 2014 a stronghold of ISIS…

The bishops: Pray for corruption-free nation on Diwali (Fides) Catholic bishops in India have invited prayer for a nation free of corruption, violence and division on the occasion of Diwali, the festival of lights which is celebrated on 30 October. In their warmest greetings and felicitations “to the Hindu brethren throughout the world,” the bishops noted that the festival symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and good over evil…

Dozens missing after migrant boat sinks in Mediterranean, says Libyan navy (The Guardian) About 100 people are feared missing after a boat sank off the coast of Libya, amid mounting evidence that already dangerous conditions are worsening for migrants crossing the Mediterranean sea to get to Europe. General Ayoub Qassem, a spokesman for the Libyan navy, said on Thursday that a boat carrying 126 people from the port of Garabulli had sunk after being hit by high waves, and that only 20 people had been rescued…

Syrian rebels launch attack to break Aleppo siege (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian rebels, including extremists, counterattacked the army and its allies Friday aiming to break a weeks-long siege on eastern Aleppo, insurgents said. The assault, employing heavy shelling and suicide car bombs, was mainly focused on the city’s western edge. It included fighters from Jabhat Fatah al Sham, a former affiliate of Al Qaeda previously known as Al Nusra Front, and groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based pro-opposition monitor, said more than 15 civilians had been killed and 100 wounded by rebel shelling of government-held western Aleppo. State media reported that five civilians were killed…

NATO moving thousands of troops amid standoff with Russia (Vatican Radio) The NATO military alliance has finalized plans to deploy thousands of troops and military equipment to the Baltics and Poland in response to what it views as an increasingly aggressive and unpredictable Russia. After two days of talks, NATO defense ministers agreed to send as many as 4,000 troops and equipment into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland near Russia’s borders, despite warnings by experts that it could add to international tensions…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Migrants Libya





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