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




Embed from Getty Images
Workers remove wreckage after yesterday’s airstrikes in northern Syria. At least 57 were killed.
(photo: Abdurrazzak Sekirdy/Andalou Agency/Getty Images)


Airstrikes kill dozens in Syrian market (The New York Times) Dozens of people were killed in airstrikes on a market in northern Syria on Monday, according a monitoring group and a news agency run by activists. The attacks left rescuers and survivors digging late into the evening to search for residents still buried under the rubble...

Lebanon’s patriarch arrives in Saudi Arabia on historic visit (Catholic Herald) Catholic leaders in Lebanon have urged the international community to bring peace to the Middle East, amid the “state of deadlock” the country is in following the resignation of its prime minister. The Catholic Council of the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon said it was a message that Cardinal Bechara Rai, the Maronite patriarch, would carry to Saudi Arabia on his visit this week...

Lebanon’s former prime minister blames Hezbollah for country’s crisis (Arab News) Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon at the behest of Iran is the cause of the country’s political crisis and his own resignation as prime minister, Saad Hariri said in a dramatic and emotional TV interview on Sunday night. “I am not against Hezbollah as a political party but it should not be the cause of the destruction of Lebanon,” Hariri said...

Rescue workers search debris after quake kills over 500 (AP) Rescuers on Tuesday used backhoes and heavy equipment to dig through the debris of buildings toppled by a powerful earthquake on the border between Iran and Iraq that killed over 530 people, with weeping women crying out to God as aid workers found new bodies...

Pope sends condolences to Iran and Iraq (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent a pair of telegrams to Iraq and Iran on Monday, expressing his condolences for the damage and loss of life caused by Sunday’s severe earthquake...

Indian Christians hoping for solution to lack of burial ground (Christian Daily) Christians in Borivli East in Mumbai, India, are hoping that the government in the state of Maharashtra will provide them with more burial spaces for their community so that they will no longer be forced to shell out a lot of money to bury their dead in the west...

Pew Research Center: a closer look at Orthodox Christians (Pew) Recently, we sat down with George Demacopolous, a professor of theology at Fordham University, to examine trends and issues in the Orthodox Christian world. Demacopolous is a noted expert on Orthodox Christian history and the author and editor of six books...



13 November 2017
Greg Kandra




A woman in Delhi, India, sits amid the rubble of her home destroyed by local authorities in a bid to relocate the residents in this 2 November photo. Pope Francis will celebrate the Catholic Church’s first World Day of the Poor on 19 November. (photo: CNS/Cathal McNaughton, Reuters)

Amnesty report warns of crime against humanity in Syria (Al Jazeera) Amnesty International says the Syrian government’s ‘surrender or starve’ campaign targeting civilians constitutes a crime against humanity. It is calling for an end to what it calls ‘the dark stain on the world’s conscience’...

Pope to lead celebration of World Day of the Poor (CNS) Pope Francis will celebrate the Catholic Church’s first World Day of the Poor 19 November by celebrating a morning Mass with people in need and those who assist them. After Mass, he will offer lunch to 500 people in the Vatican audience hall...

Refugees in Lebanon face eviction (Al Monitor) Thousands of Syrian refugees residing in several municipalities across Lebanon are under threat by eviction campaigns that have ramped up in recent weeks. Aid workers from several humanitarian organizations say that reports of refugee evictions have increased in a number of predominantly Christian areas...

Hundreds take part in reconciliation marathon in Gaza (Middle East Monitor) Hundreds of men and women took part in a reconciliation marathon organised by the Palestine Athletic Federation (PAF) in Gaza on Friday, MEMO’s correspondent in the enclave has reported. The race involved runners, cyclists and paralympic athletes in a celebration of the reconciliation between the Palestinian political factions, sending what was described as a “message of hope” to the world...

New threats reported against Copts (Fides) Coptic Christians in Egypt do not accept the condition of submission imposed on Christians in Islamic societies; they continue to build churches and even promote television networks to spread the Christian proclamation. This is why they must be attacked as “infidel fighters”, and their churches must be blown up. This is, in short, the message of instigation — to carry out new violence against Egyptian Copts — contained in a dossier widespread in recent days by the Wafa Media Foundation...

Orthodox church not opposed to sex education in Russian schools (RT) The church does not oppose sex education in schools, but urges caution as it can corrupt young minds, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate external relations department has stated...



9 November 2017
Greg Kandra




Syria has declared victory over ISIS, but questions remain about how Syria will rebuild and recover after the lengthy civil war that has decimated much of the country. The video above shows some of the devastation and explores some solutions. (video: The National/YouTube)

Syria declares victory over ISIS (Reuters) Syria’s army declared victory over Islamic State on Thursday, saying its capture of the jihadists’ last town in the country marked the collapse of their project in the region...

An Iraqi town where Muslims, Jews and Christians coexist, in theory (The New York Times) Today Amadiya’s population of 9,000 is overwhelmingly Kurdish Muslim. But in the early 20th century there were said to be about two-thirds that many people, about evenly divided among Muslims, Christians and Jews — although there were 10 mosques compared with two churches and two synagogues. Everyone was packed into a circumference of a mile and a half...

Pope John Paul I declared ‘venerable’ (CNS) Pope Francis recognized that Pope John Paul I, who served only 33 days as pope, lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way. The Vatican announced Pope Francis’ decision on 9 November. It marks the first major step on the path to sainthood for the pope who died in 1978 at the age of 65, shocking the world and a church that had just mourned the death of Blessed Paul VI...

U.N.: 36.5 million people in East Africa face food crisis (CoastWeek.com) The number of people facing crisis-level food insecurity in the Eastern Africa region has increased by 18 percent to 36.5 million in October from 30.9 million a year ago, UN humanitarian agency said Tuesday...

Pope Francis: St. Francis Cabrini is a modern model for handling migration (CNS) St. Frances Cabrini, the missionary to Italian immigrants in the United States in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, “teaches us the path to handling the epochal phenomenon of migration by joining charity and justice,” Pope Francis said...

Blessed Rani Maria seen as a beacon of hope for Indian Christians (Global Sisters Report) The beatification of a martyred Catholic nun will help evangelization in India, where preaching Christ’s message has become increasingly difficult, church leaders say. Sister Rani Maria Vattalil’s beatification “is a major turning point in the history of Christianity in India, where peace-loving Christians face persecution,” said Shibu Thomas, head of Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records attacks against Christians in India...



8 November 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar at the Vatican on Tuesday.
(photo: EPA/Vatican Radio)


Pope meets Egypt’s Muslim leader (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Tuesday with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Muhammad al-Tayeb who is in Rome to attend a conference organised by the St Egidio community...

Jesuits launch first child protection center in Addis Ababa (Vatican Radio) Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Ethiopia, a Catholic Church Organisation that works with refugees, launched the Child Protection Centre in Addis Ababa, which is the first of its kind in the city. The center, which is strategically located in the capital city, is established to respond to the growing demand of the urban refugee community due to the growing number of refugee children and their vulnerability...

Iraq’s Christians worry over Iraqi-Kurdish conflict (Al Jazeera) Many Christians are uncertain about their future in Iraq after government forces, with the help of Shia militia, retook most of the disputed territories in Iraq controlled by the Kurds...

Germany pledges more aid to Jordan (The Jordan Times) Germany on Tuesday pledged to provide Jordan with over 575 million euros in assistance to respond to the Kingdom’s development needs and support the Syrian refugees in Jordan...

Indian cardinal makes pastoral visit to New Zealand (New Zealand Catholic) The Syro-Malabar Catholic community in New Zealand was thrilled to be visited last month by Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, the major archbishop of their church. The church is an Eastern Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church based in Kerala, India. It is a sui iuris particular church in full communion with the Pope and the worldwide Catholic Church. There are about 4500 Syro-Malabar Catholics in New Zealand and about 10 priests of that rite are ministering in this country, often in Latin rite parishes...



7 November 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Syrian children tell some of the horrors they experienced in the final days of ISIS in Raqqa. (video: VOA/YouTube)

Al Azhar reacts to massacre at U.S church (Fides) Violent acts “which desecrate the holiness of places of worship and destroy innocent lives threaten the people’s stability and security.” And the shedding of innocent blood, irrespective of race and the religion of the victims, “is forbidden by all religions.” With these words, the University of Al Azhar, the main academic and theological center of Sunni Islam, expressed in a formal statement the condolences to the victims of the massacre carried out on Sunday, 5 November by a former military in a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas...

Rebuilding ‘Hell Square’ in Syria’s Raqqa (Voice of America) In mid-October, ISIS was driven out of Raqqa as the remaining families fled the battle. Making the city once again livable, according to officials, is now an overwhelming task complicated by a political deadlock. Rebuilding lives after mass trauma, they add, may be close to impossible...

Maronite patriarch urges ‘vigilance over any sabotage scheme aimed at undermining Lebanon’ (Fides) Following the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, “there must be vigilance and full awareness against any sabotage plot or scheme aimed at undermining stability in the country.” This is how Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai voiced regret over Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s shock resignation, warning of the destabilizing effects that this choice might have on the fragile national balance...

Archbishop emeritus S. Michael Augustine of India dies (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Emeritus S. Michael Augustine of Pondicherry-Cuddalore diocese of India passed away this morning in a local hospital. He served for 39 years as a bishop and 56 years as a priest till God called him to Himself at the age of 85...

Victims of ISIS in focus at U.N. forum (CNA) Persecuted religious minorities in Syria and Iraq deserve a better future after suffering at the hands of the Islamic State group. That was the message of Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the U.N. He said justice for the survivors “demands that we seek to return to them, as much as possible, what Daesh pillaged from them...”

Churches in U.K. to turn red in support of victims of persecution (Vatican Radio) Catholic schools and churches across the United Kingdom will be floodlit red to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians across the world...



6 November 2017
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Angelo Amato presided at the beatification ceremony for Sister Rani Maria in India on 4 November. (photo: Vatican Radio)

Indian sister beatified (Times of India) With teary eyes and overwhelming joy, the congregation celebrated the beatification of Blessed Rani Maria on Saturday. With the official declaration of the beatification, Blessed Rani Maria has become the first sister to be beatified in northern India and the seventh Indian to be beatified, after Sister Alphonsa, the Rev. Kuriakose Chavara, Mother Euphrasia, Father Joseph Vaz, Father Gonsalo Garcia and Mother Teresa…

Truck bomb in Syria kills dozens fleeing battle against ISIS (AP) A spokesman for U.S.-backed forces in Syria says more than a hundred people have been killed in a truck bomb blast in eastern Syria. Mustafa Bali of the Syrian Democratic Forces says the victims were refugees from the war against the ISIS group in the region. He said the attack occurred on Saturday near the Conoco gas plant near Deir Ezzor city…

Jordan plans new city to ease crowding, congestion (Middle East Eye) Jordan has announced plans to build a new city east of the capital Amman in order to ease rising population density and traffic congestion. The project to build the city some 19 miles from Amman was part of a drive to stimulate the economy and attract long-term investment, the government said in a statement published Sunday…

Archbishop of Canterbury forges closer ties with Russian Orthodox (Times of London) The archbishop of Canterbury is scheduled to pay a groundbreaking official visit to Moscow this month for talks with the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and he will be received by senior politicians. This will be the first time that the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion has held talks with the patriarch in Moscow, and it is a signal of the growing importance of the Russian Orthodox Church, now one of the world’s biggest, richest and most powerful churches...

In Lebanon, maestro helps voices of refugee children rise above poverty, divisions (Voice of America) They are among the most underprivileged children in Lebanon, and now their voices can soar. For several months, conductor and composer Salim Sahab auditioned youngsters, most of whom work, for a choir of 300. With Syrian and Palestinian refugees selected along with Lebanese children, hopes are that the unifying power of singing will help cross political and sectarian lines…



Tags: Syria India Sisters Jordan Saints

3 November 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Smoke billows from the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor during an operation by Syrian government forces against ISIS on 2 November 2017. Syria’s army and allied forces have taken full control of the eastern city of Deir Ezzor from the Islamic State group, Syrian state television said.
(photo: AFP/Getty Images)


ISIS ousted from last major city in Syria (CNN) The Syrian army and allied forces have taken full control of the city of Deir Ezzor, the last major Syrian city in ISIS’ hands, Syria’s Defense Ministry and state media said Friday. “Syria’s Army in cooperation with allied forces liberated the entire city of Deir Ezzor from the ISIS after killing a large number of the terrorists, among them foreigners,” the Syrian Defense ministry said in a statement...

Bishop dismisses call to make India a Hindu nation (UCANews) An Indian bishops’ conference official has reacted sharply against a radical Hindu party for trying to negate the secular Indian Constitution. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference, also disagreed with their insistence that Hindus in India should get priority over Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities. “India is a secular country and it will also remain so. It was not born out of religion and we do not want it to turn it into some religion-based country,” he said...

Maronite bishops call for refugees’ safe return (The Daily Star) The Council of Maronite Bishops reiterated its humanitarian solidarity with Syrian refugees Wednesday, but called for the safe return of the displaced to their homeland. “If this crisis continues, there will be a generation of refugees with no national identity, so how will they partake in the future of Syria?” a statement from the council, released after a meeting in Bkirki, read...

English Catholic, Anglican leaders call for Palestinian homeland (CNS) Recognition of a national homeland for Palestinians is required to achieve justice and reconciliation in the Holy Land, English Catholic and Anglican leaders announced on 2 November. They used the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain declared its support for a Jewish state, to press for a two-state solution to decades of strife between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples...

Historic agreement on Holy Spirit signed in Dublin (AnglicanNews.org) Theologians from the Anglican Communion and Oriental Orthodox Churches have signed an historic agreement on the Holy Spirit. The Agreed Statement on the Procession and Work of the Holy Spirit was signed on Friday at the end of a week of discussions by the Anglican Oriental-Orthodox International Commission (AOOIC) and concludes two years of work on the subject...



2 November 2017
Greg Kandra






Pope condemns ‘murderous folly’ of terrorism (CNS) Pope Francis prayed for victims of the terrorist attack in New York, as well as victims of other terror attacks, and condemned the murder of innocent men and women in the name of God...

Syrian opposition rejects Russian dialogue initiative (Al Jazeera) The Syrian opposition attending the latest round of peace talks in Astana has rejected the Russian call for a Congress in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. The “Syrian Congress on National Dialogue” proposed by Moscow during the two-day talks in the Kazakh capital is expected to discuss the reconciliation between all of the warring parties, political reform and discuss the proposed new Syrian constitution...

Hamas hands control of Gaza crossings to Palestinian Authority (The Guardian) The Palestinian militant group Hamas has formally relinquished security control of key crossings from the Gaza Strip to Egypt and Israel to its long-term rival, the Palestinian Authority, marking the first test of a fragile reconciliation accord agreed last month...

‘Race of Saints’ turns focus on India’s child brides (Vatican Radio) The “Don Bosco in the World” Foundation that organizes the event, wants to draw attention this year to the child brides of India who are forced to marry adult men, with serious health and psycho-physical consequences. The foundation will sent the fund raised by this year’s “Race of Saints” to the Salesians of Don Bosco of the Province of Bangalore, active in the southern state of Karnataka, who have been working to help child brides who are denied their childhood and rights...

Sister’s beatification ‘a joy for India’ (Vatican Radio) The CBCI Secretariat has issued a Press Release on Thursday, ahead of the Beatification of Sister Rani Maria which will be held on Saturday in Indore, India. Sister Rani Maria, professed sister of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation whose cause was cleared for beatification on 23 March 2017 will be declared ‘Blessed’ at a ceremony to be held on 4 November in Indore...



31 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Samunder Singh, who stabbed and killed Sister Rani Maria, stands in prayer before a portrait kept in her former convent in Udainagar, a mission station in northern India. She will be beatified on Saturday. (photo: UCANews.com)

Beatification of Indian nun to inspire persecuted Christians (Malaysia Herald) The upcoming beatification of an Indian nun murdered over 20 years ago, will be an inspiration for India's persecuted Christians, say local church leaders. Indian Catholics are preparing for the 4 November beatification ceremony of Sister Rani Maria Vattalil who was killed in a knife attack on 25 February 1995 as she traveled on a bus near the city of Indore on her way to her home state Kerala for a vacation. Sister Rani Maria was a member of the indigenous Franciscan Clarist Congregation in Indore Diocese situated in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. She was 41 years of age when she was murdered...

Christians await compensation in India (UCANews) An ecumenical delegation has called on India’s Odisha state government to finally implement the Supreme Court’s directive to increase compensation payments to victims of anti-Christian violence. The Supreme Court issued the order more than a year ago...

Syrian refugees in Lebanon face mounting hostility (Haaretz) Heart-rending reports describe the difficulties of life in Lebanon, especially for children. Some of them, as young as 10 years old, have been forced to work. Their parents aren’t allowed to hold down jobs officially because the Lebanese government won’t give them work permits. The men who head households may find occasional employment, in construction or agriculture, but they are paid a pittance. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has explicitly clarified that Lebanon will not allow Syrian refugees to settle within its borders, and the establishment of so-called safe zones has become an excuse for the public to rally against the newcomers...

Patriarch Kirill appeals to shared faith in Romania (Christian Today) Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is extending an arm of friendship to Orthodox Christians in Romania in the first visit by a head of the Russian Church since the fall of communism. Romania, a NATO and European Union member which now hosts part of the US anti-missile shield and NATO’s anti-ballistic defense system, has had cool relations with Russia since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, although the two countries share cultural and religious ties...

Salvaging bodies: a doctor’s everyday reality in Syria (Al Jazeera) Trauma surgeon Shazeer Majeed has worked for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Yemen, South Sudan and Iraq. He is now working in northern Syria, a region gripped by instability, and shares his day-to-day reality of trying to keep victims of war alive...

Lebanese cardinal blesses New York chapel to St. Charbel (CNS) Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, inaugurated a chapel to Lebanon’s St. Charbel in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The chapel is the first of its kind outside Lebanon...

Pope names auxiliary Chaldean bishop in San Diego to head Toronto eparchy (CNS) Pope Francis has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Bawai Soro of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle in San Diego as bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto. Bishop Soro, 63, has been an auxiliary bishop of the San Diego-based eparchy since the the pope named him to the post in January 2014...



30 October 2017
Greg Kandra




The tomb of the Jewish prophet Nahum in northern Iraq, shown above, is threatened by tensions in the region. (photo: Wikipedia)

Ancient tomb of Jewish prophet in danger (The Jerusalem Post) The tomb of the Prophet Nahum, which overlooks the Nineveh plains in northern Iraq, is now near the forefront of tensions between the Iraqi federal government and Kurdistan Regional Government. Since last week Iraqi forces, including Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, have been fighting with Peshmerga in an attempt by Baghdad to push Kurdish forces out of disputed areas and take oil fields and strategic border areas from the Kurds. Although a cease-fire took effect on Friday, tensions remain high...

‘October Light’ spirituality energizes Mumbai children (Vatican Radio) St. Anthony’s Church, Vakola, Mumbai holds a week-long event ‘October Light’ for Sunday School children and enhances the significance of light during Diwali vacation...

Three Coptic Christian churches closed in Egypt (AP) Egyptian religious officials say authorities have shuttered three Coptic Christian churches over fears of attacks by Islamic militants. The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said authorities sealed off two churches in the southern province, citing harassment and attacks by fundamentalists. A third was closed due to fears of attacks. The statement was issued late on Saturday, 28 October...

Pope urges U.S. to welcome migrants (CNS) Pope Francis called on the people of the United States to welcome migrants and urged those who are welcomed to respect the laws of the country. “To all people (of the U.S.) I ask: take care of the migrant who is a promise of life for the future. To migrants: take care of the country that welcomes you; accept and respect its laws and walk together along that path of love,” the pope said 26 October during a live video conversation with teenagers from around the world...







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