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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
20 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Women who recently fled the Islamic State's stronghold of Hawija receive donated food in Iraq’s Debaga camp, outside Erbil, on 19 October. (photo: CNS /Zohra Bensemra, Reuters)

Mosul operation moving faster than expected (CNN) The operation to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul after more than two years of ISIS rule is going faster than expected, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday, as a CNN analysis of the battlefield showed forces have now captured at least 100 square kilometers [about 38 miles] of territory. The sweeping gains come as Peshmerga fighters opened a new front from the north, liberating several villages from ISIS control some 20 kilometers [12 miles] from the city...

Chaldean patriarch calls for unity in Iraq (Vatican Radio) As Iraqi troops move on Mosul to liberate the strategic city from the so-called Islamic State, the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, has called for peace and national unity in Iraq...

In Turkey, Iraqi Christians live in limbo (CNS) Yako Hanna, 36, always keeps an eye on his phone waiting for a call that would change his life. “Anytime it rings, you think it is the U.N., so you have to be careful. Even if you go to the bathroom, you have to take your mobile with you,” Hanna said, referring to the call he might receive from the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, which is handling his resettlement application to Australia, where he has relatives. Hanna is one of the thousands of Iraqi Christians that are in Turkey waiting, from a few months to a few years, for an answer to their resettlement applications to Western countries...

Talks move ahead on Ukraine (Reuters) Germany and France pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend a pause in air strikes in Syria and halt the “criminal” bombardment of civilians, but said four-way talks aimed at ending violence in eastern Ukraine made some progress. “We are talking here about criminal activities, about crimes against the civilians,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after what she described as a difficult discussion with Putin about the crisis in Syria...



19 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Peshmerga forces advance 18 October to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq.
(photo: CNS/Thaier Al-Sudani, Reuters)


Iraqi forces closing in on Mosul (CNN) The Iraqi army’s armored division is closing in on Mosul’s fringes after sweeping through enemy-controlled land in the past 48 hours, liberating communities village by village, the division’s commander told CNN Wednesday, as the operation to liberate Mosul from the brutal grip of ISIS militants intensifies...

Report: thousands have fled Mosul ahead of offensive (Voice of America) Save The Children said Wednesday thousands of people have fled the Mosul area in order to escape an offensive by Iraqi and Kurdish forces to retake the city from Islamic State militants. The aid group said about 5,000 people have arrived at a refugee camp in Syria during the past 10 days and that it is at risk of being overwhelmed as more people come. “These families arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs and find almost nothing to help them,” said Tarik Kadir, who heads the group’s Mosul response...

Displaced Christians celebrate as Iraq forces near Mosul (AFP) Hundreds of displaced Iraqi Christians danced and sang to celebrate an Iraqi military operation to retake their community’s main hub of Qaraqosh from jihadists. Iraqi Christian men, women and children — some of them holding candles — gathered at Mar Shimon church in the Kurdish capital of Arbil to pray and celebrate, an AFP correspondent reported on Tuesday. Iraqi federal forces on Tuesday moved deep into Qaraqosh, a town that lies around 15 kilometres (10 miles) southeast of Mosul and was seized by the Islamic State jihadist group in August 2014. “Today is a happy moment. There is no doubt our land will be liberated and we thank God, Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary,” said Hazem Djedjou Cardomi, a journalist among the crowd...

Pope Francis: access to food, water is a basic human right (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday said access to food and water is a basic human right, and called on believers and people of good will everywhere to take personal responsibility for the needs of their neighbors...

Bishops meet to discuss pastoral care of Eastern Catholic migrants (Vatican Radio) Bishops of the Catholic Eastern Rite Churches in Europe are meeting in Portugal from 20-23 October to discuss the challenge of the pastoral care of Eastern Catholic migrants in Western European nations, especially the preservation of their cultural and ecclesial identity...

Russia opens new church in Paris (AP) Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has attended a ceremony to inaugurate a Russian Orthodox church and cultural center next to the Eiffel Tower. Russian President Vladimir Putin had planned to attend Wednesday’s ceremony at the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center but postponed his visit to Paris due to diplomatic tensions between Russia and France over the war in Syria. The complex, including the Holy Trinity Cathedral, has been built on the site of the former headquarters of France’s national weather forecasting services, near the Seine River...



18 October 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, the leader of a Caritas humanitarian program in Jordan describes who some Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria have experienced. Iraqi soldiers are battling to retake from ISIS the city of Mosul. (video: Rome Reports)

Aid groups brace for civilian casualties from battle for Mosul (NPR) The battle for the ISIS-held city of Mosul, now in its second day, is expected to drag on for weeks or months. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces approach the city, aid groups in the region are preparing for a humanitarian crisis...

Ethiopian bishops call for dialogue (Vatican Radio) About 60 percent of Ethiopia’s population has been involved in protest and civil unrest for the past year. The Ahmara and Omoro are the two largest ethnic groups in the nation and are also the majority of the protesters. International entities such as the United Nations and European Union have called for government intervention. The Bishops of the Catholic Church of Ethiopia are calling for action...

Cardinal speaks out against religious intolerance (Fides) prominent Asian Cardinal has hit out against religious intolerance in his home nation, calling it a “poison for society.” Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, sent the strongly worded message to the “Fides” Agency, which held an event on Saturday to mark the launch of a book entitled “On the Brink” which examines the realities of life for religious minorities in Asian countries...

Leaders worry about ISIS threat to Kerala Christians (UCANews) Media reports that terrorists connected to the so-called Islamic State (IS) plan to target Syrian Christians in Kerala is causing concerns for religious leaders in the southern Indian state. The Times of India daily recently reported that Kerala police have busted an IS-inspired cell. Interrogations reportedly revealed that the Islamic militant outfit was targeting churches and institutions run by “a denomination of Christians of Syrian lineage.”

Cardinal Sandri visits Mt. Nebo (Vatican Radio) The Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, was in Jordan over the weekend, where he presided over a liturgy celebrating the official re-opening of the shrine atop Mt. Nebo...



17 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters deploy on the top of Mount Zardak, about 15 miles east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against ISIS on 17 October 2016.
(photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)


Battle for Mosul begins (CNN) Iraq’s military says it has inflicted “heavy losses of life and equipment” on ISIS in a district southeast of Mosul, as Iraqi-led forces close in on the city in the long-awaited battle to recapture it from the terror group. Hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of the offensive, Iraq’s military said it had inflicted losses and made advances in the Hamdaniya district...

UN fears 100,000 may flee Mosul for Syria, Turkey (Reuters) Up to 100,000 Iraqis may flee to Syria and Turkey to escape the Iraqi government’s military assault aimed at ousting Islamic State from the northern city of Mosul, the United Nations refugee agency said on Monday. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued an appeal for an additional $61 million to provide tents, camps, winter items and stoves for displaced inside Iraq and new refugees needing shelter in the two neighboring countries...

Egypt re-opens border crossing to Gaza (UPI) Egypt announced it temporarily reopened the Rafah crossing for two days to allow Palestinians to enter or leave the Gaza Strip, and plans to do so a second time later this week. The Egyptian government reopened the Rafah crossing on the south side of the Gaza Strip to allow students, people with work permits and humanitarian cases to enter or leave for two days and will do so for four more days later this week...

Finding refuge: Vetting refugees at a Jordanian camp (CBS News) A majority of U.S. governors have called for a halt to the refugee program too. The Syrians who are finding refuge in the U.S. now find themselves at the center of a heated debate, pitting our American tradition of altruism against our fear of terrorism. We wanted to see for ourselves who these refugees are, and what is the vetting process...

Patriarch Kirill consecrates cathedral in London (RT) Hundreds of people including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Prince Michael of Kent gathered in London’s Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God and All Saints to attend a historic service conducted by the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church. Up to one thousand people attended the ceremonies on Sunday, according to the patriarch’s press service. The service included the consecration of London’s largest Orthodox Christian Cathedral, which had undergone a major refurbishment, and the Divine Liturgy, commemorating the 300th anniversary of the presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in the British Isles...



14 October 2016
Greg Kandra




A man reacts on the rubble of destroyed buildings on 11 October after losing relatives to an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. The United States on Saturday plans to mount new efforts to pursue a cease fire for Aleppo. (photo: CNS/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

New diplomatic push for Syria cease fire (The New York Times) Secretary of State John Kerry will mount a fresh effort on Saturday to pursue a cease-fire for the besieged city of Aleppo by meeting with representatives from the regional powers most directly involved in the Syria conflict, American officials said on Wednesday. Just last week the Obama administration suspended talks with Russia on Syria after accusing the Russian military of conducting a bombing campaign so brutal that Mr. Kerry has urged that it be the subject of a war crimes investigation...

Britain’s first Syro-Malabar bishop ordained (Catholic Herald) Britain’s Syro-Malabar community has taken a major step forward with the ordination of its first bishop. In a ceremony attended by over 12,000 people, Cardinal George Alencherry, the Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, ordained Mar Joseph Srampickal...

Pope Francis: Christians are united by ‘blood’ ecumenism (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Christians are already united when they are persecuted by terrorists or world powers in what he called an ecumenism of the “blood.” He was speaking in an off-the-cuff address on Wednesday to participants at the Conference for Secretaries of the Christian World Communions, an international ecumenical organization...

Lviv unearths its tragic past (Al Jazeera) Far from the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, this charming city some 750 miles to the west is known for its cafes and cobblestone streets. Besides being a top tourist destination, Lviv is also touted as a model for transparency and good local governance. But under its architectural beauty and progressive streak lies a dark past — a fact Svyatoslav Sheremeta confronted last August, when his team of archaeologists dug up the remains of a dozen people they believe were murdered by the Soviet secret police during World War II...

Pope greets restorers of the Basilica of the Nativity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday during his General Audience greeted the restorers of the Basilica of the Nativity in Jerusalem, accompanied by the vicar general of the Custody of the Holy Land, Fra Dobromir Jasztal, OFM...



12 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, on 12 October. The pope called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria so that civilians can be rescued.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


Pope Francis calls for cease fire in Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Syria on Wednesday. Addressing pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis said, “I want to emphasize and reiterate my solidarity with all victims of inhuman conflict in Syria...”

Sviatoslav reminds Catholic bishops ‘the first victim of war is truth’ (ByzCath.org) On 6-9 October, Monaco hosted the Plenary Assembly of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe. On Saturday, 8 October, the regular working meeting of the heads of Catholic Dioceses across Europe heard reports on pastoral challenges the Church faces in their communities. In his speech, His Beatitude Sviatoslav told his brothers-bishops about the third year of suffering afflicted to the Ukrainians by war. He stressed that despite diplomatic efforts and other activities of the international community, no lasting cease-fire has been achieved in Ukraine...

Warming Russia-Turkey relations sends chill through Ukraine (Christian Science Monitor) Leaders of Turkey and Russia signed a long-delayed deal Monday to build the TurkStream gas pipeline under the Black Sea to deliver Russian gas to Europe’s doorstep within three years. The rapid warming trend in Russo-Turkish relations holds deep implications for Syria’s immediate crisis, which dominated the talks and the subsequent headlines, but the fallout from that pipeline deal is a potentially crushing blow to struggling pro-Western Ukraine and may be rearranging strategic realities around the region for many years to come...

Offering mental health support to refugees in Lebanon (Huffington Post) For the more than one million refugees who have fled war in Syria and Iraq to Lebanon, mental health and psychosocial needs are many and complex. Unlike physical health issues, the lack of visible symptoms for mental health disorders often leads to them being overlooked. Many of the refugees who find safety in Lebanon have survived physical violence including torture, trauma, and have born witness to the atrocities of the unabated armed conflict...

Sister accuses media of bias in Syria coverage (CNS) A religious sister working with Christian families in Aleppo, Syria, has criticized Western media for their allegedly biased coverage of the six-year conflict. Sister Annie Demerjian, a member of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, questioned why Western journalists focused on the plight of people in areas held by rebels and jihadis but seldom those in regions controlled by the government of Bashar Assad. “It is not fair,” she told Catholic News Service in a 10 October interview in Lancaster...



11 October 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad describes what he and other Christians have endured in Iraq. As the country prepares for the liberation of Mosul, Iraq, there have been disputes about who will control the territory. (video: Rome Reports)

Disputes over future control of Mosul (Fides) The preliminary phases to the military assault for the liberation of Mosul from jihadists of the Islamic State sees the increase of political, geopolitical and sectarian disputes about the future political and ethno-religious structure of the region among the various actors in the field, after the possible defeat of the Caliphate...

The rise of Syria’s White Helmets (The Economist) Operating across rebel-held parts of the country, Syria’s civil-defence team has grown from small, ragtag bands of untrained volunteers into a formidable search-and-rescue force. The group has rescued more than 60,000 people since 2014, when it began to keep count. Known as the White Helmets for the color of the hard hats they wear, the rescue workers were nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize...

Turkey extends state of emergency following failed coup (NPR) In Turkey, the sweeping crackdown that began after the failed coup attempt in July isn’t slowing down. A three-month state of emergency billed as a temporary measure has just been extended for another three months...

Israel shuts down access to Gaza, West Bank for Yom Kippur (AFP) Israeli authorities have barred Palestinians from entering the country from the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, ahead of the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday that begins on Tuesday evening, the army said. Such closures are often put in place for major Jewish holidays, but Israeli security forces are on especially high alert following an attack by a Palestinian gunman in Jerusalem on Sunday that killed two people...

Bees bring hope to Palestine (Vatican Radio) On the West Bank, near Ramallah, honey production has become one of the basic economic resources for a group of women...



7 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees arrive at a refugee camp in early May at the Jordan border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)

U.N. to make aid delivery to Syrian refugees on Jordan’s border (Reuters) United Nations aid agencies will make their first deliveries of relief in two months to thousands of Syrian refugees stranded on Jordan’s northeastern border with Syria, the world body said on Thursday. More than 75,000 people, mostly women and children, have been stuck for months in makeshift camps in a no-man’s land on the Syrian side of the border, after fleeing central and eastern Syria…

Maronite archbishop: Aleppo is divided like a new Berlin (Vatican Radio) Daily life in the fiercely contested Syrian city of Aleppo becomes worse by the day. In an interview with Vatican Radio, Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo said nowhere is safe in the Syrian city which he called a “new Berlin.” The archbishop described how the residents of Aleppo are living with death on a daily basis as a result of the frequent bombardments and shelling, saying they celebrate at least ten funerals every day for those killed by the fighting…

A million children in Syria sign appeal for peace (Vatican Radio) More than one million children in Syria have been signing a petition calling for peace as part of a fresh appeal to political leaders to end the Syrian civil war…

Kidnapped Christians released in Egypt (Christian Today) Four Coptic Christians, including a child, who were kidnapped on Monday in the Egyptian town of Manfalout in Assiut, have returned home safely after a ransom was paid, according to the independent Cairo newspaper Watani…

Evidence of ancient Assyrian church discovered in Kazakhstan (The Astana Times) The ancient city of Ilyn Balik is well known from pilgrims’ travels. Recent excavations in Usharal village have uncovered an ancient city and cemetery with eight Nestorian gravestones and the markers prove Christianity was present in Kazakhstan long before Western imperialism…



Tags: Syria Egypt Jordan

6 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Children play in water from a burst pipe after an air strike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 September. (photo: CNS/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

In Syria, Eastern Aleppo faces ‘total ruin’ in a matter of months (BBC) Rebel-held eastern Aleppo in northern Syria may face “total destruction” in two months, with thousands killed, the United Nations Syria envoy has said. Staffan de Mistura told reporters that he was prepared to personally accompany Al Qaeda-linked jihadists out of the city if it would stop the fighting…

Syrian forces seize half of rebel-held neighborhood in Aleppo (Reuters) Syrian government forces seized around half of a key opposition-held neighborhood in Aleppo on Thursday in a new advance against rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said…

Holy See: World cannot ‘lose resolve’ in migration crisis (Vatican Radio) The permanent representative of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, on Wednesday addressed the executive committee meeting of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees…

Russian Orthodox Church: Collaboration more important than ever (Asia News) Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov, secretary for relations between Christians from the Moscow Patriarchate, hopes cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics will result in “peacekeepers” and “moral reference points” in a world marked by armed conflicts, terrorism, persecution, consumerism, materialism. He also speaks of the difficulties among Orthodox churches. Pope Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Cuba catalyzed the growth of fraternal relations between Moscow and Rome…

Israel halts yacht trying to break Gaza embargo (The New York Times) Their chances of reaching the shores of Gaza were never high: Thirteen women on a yacht hoping to breach the years-old sea blockade of the Hamas-run Palestinian coastal territory enforced by the Israeli Navy. Naval officers boarded the yacht, the Zaytouna-Oliva, at dusk on Wednesday in international waters, after it had spent eight days at sea. It was searched and redirected toward the southern Israeli port of Ashdod…

Sheptytsky Institute moving to new location (Catholic Register) Canada’s premier center for university-level studies of Ukrainian Catholic theology, tradition and liturgy is moving from Ottawa to Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College. The Andrey Sheptytsky Institute will move from Saint Paul University, where it has operated since 1990, on 1 July 2017. Toronto classes will begin next September. It will offer master’s and Ph.D. programs in Eastern Christian spirituality and doctrine, liturgy, church history and ecumenism…



Tags: Syria Israel Eastern Christianity Christian Unity Migrants

5 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis reflected on his recent trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan in his general audience Wednesday. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope reflects on trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan (Vatican Radio) At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis reflected on his recent apostolic voyage to Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Holy Father said: “This visit complemented my visit to Armenia in June, and fulfilled my desire to visit all three nations of the Caucasus to confirm the Catholic community and to encourage all the people in their journey toward peace and fraternity.” He concluded his address with the prayer, “May God bless Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and guide his holy people in those countries…”

Four Copts, including a child, kidnapped (Fides) Four Coptic Christians, one of whom is a 9-year-old boy, were kidnapped on 3 October in the city of Manfalut, in the province of Assiut, about 220 miles south of Cairo…

Syrian government forces advance on Aleppo (Al Jazeera) Syrian government tanks crossed the frontline in the battleground city of Aleppo for the first time in four years, as a Russian-backed offensive to retake the rebel-held east escalated on the ground. Pro-government forces were “gradually advancing” after street battles on Tuesday in the divided city’s rebel-controlled neighborhoods, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights…

The refugee camp at the foot of the Washington Monument (NPR) Sabrina Chang, 30, didn’t know much about the global refugee crisis. “I think I could spit out headlines that I’ve seen, but that’s about it,” she says. But then she found herself — for a moment — in refugees’ shoes. Chang visited Forced From Home, a touring interactive exhibition hosted by Doctors Without Borders, the medical aid group. The exhibit is a re-creation of a refugee camp, about the size of half a school gymnasium, with a store, a hospital and places to sleep. It began its run in New York last month and is at the foot of the Washington Monument until 9 October, then moves to Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

India announces day of interfaith prayer in response to Kashmir crisis (Fides) “We announce a major national prayer to be held on Sunday, 16 October 2016: all the bishops, all the priests, religious and laity, will animate Masses, liturgies, vigils and prayers for the good of the nation. We call on all men and women of good will to join us and pray for our beloved country, invoking God’s blessing on our population.” This is the appeal launched by Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and president of the interreligious Episcopal Conference of India, in response to the Kashmir crisis and the escalation on the border region with Pakistan…



Tags: Syria India Egypt Pope Francis Caucasus





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