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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
12 August 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis sits with refugee children from Syria at the Vatican on 11 August.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)


Pope Francis has lunch with Syrian refugees (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis had lunch with a group of 21 Syrian refugees on Thursday at the Casa Santa Marta. During the luncheon, both adults and children had the possibility to speak with Pope Francis about the beginnings of their life in Italy...

Religious staff suspended in Turkey coup aftermath (Christian Today) More than 2,500 officials have been suspended from Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate in another crackdown following the failed military coup last month. The move, announced on Tuesday, was part of a wider purge of those believed to support US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government has blamed for the uprising. More than 50,000 people have been rounded up, sacked, or arrested in the wake of the July 15 attempted coup, and this latest figure brings the total dismissed from the religious affairs agency to 3,672...

Turkey, Iran pledge cooperation over Syria (AP) The foreign ministers of Turkey and Iran agreed Friday to boost trade relations and pledged greater cooperation on resolving the Syria crisis despite their divergences on the issue...

Fractured lands: how the Arab world came apart (The New York Times) Azar is one of six people whose lives are chronicled in these pages. The six are from different regions, different cities, different tribes, different families, but they share, along with millions of other people in and from the Middle East, an experience of profound unraveling. Their lives have been forever altered by upheavals that began in 2003 with the American invasion of Iraq, and then accelerated with the series of revolutions and insurrections that have collectively become known in the West as the Arab Spring. They continue today with the depredations of ISIS, with terrorist attacks and with failing states...

Russian Orthodox Church launches its own winery (Calvert Journal) The Russian Orthodox Church is set to start producing its own wine, with the first bottles expected to be ready next year. Set in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia, on the Black Sea coast, the Church’s vineyards were constructed by subsidiary company Mezyb and cover over 70 hectares of land. They are situated next to the summer residence of Church leader Patriarch Kirill, who will surely be first in line for a bottle...



11 August 2016
Greg Kandra




An injured boy stands amid rubble outside his home after airstrikes in Aleppo, Syria.
(photo: CNS/Ali Mustafa, EPA)


Aleppo bishop speaks of “destroyed country and families” (Vatican Radio) As the United Nations called for an urgent humanitarian pause to the fighting raging in the divided city of Aleppo where two million people lack access to clean water and electricity, the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo speaks about his “destroyed country and the destroyed families” in Syria...

Casualties rise as fighting continues in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Fighting is raging once again in eastern Ukraine with the United Nations saying that civilian casualties have reached the highest level in a year. The ongoing conflict between government forces and Russian-backed separatists has also added to pressure on media, after personal details were released of thousands of journalists...

Ethiopia dismisses calls for UN observers as protests rage (Al Jazeera) Ethopia has dismissed a plea from the United Nations that it allow international observers to investigate the killing of protesters by security forces during a recent bout of anti-government demonstrations. Getachew Reda, a government spokesman, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the UN was entitled to its opinion but the government of Ethiopia was responsible for the safety of its own people. Reda’s comments came after the UN urged the government to allow observers to investigate the killings of at least 90 protesters in the Oromia and Amhara regions over the weekend...

Thousands still displaced in Gaza (USA TODAY) For the past two years, Iftetah Amsha, 50, has been sharing a hot, cramped mobile home with her husband and 10 children. Their house was destroyed during the 50-day war with Israel that ended two years ago this month. “I don’t know when I will get out of here,” she said. The conflict left 18,000 housing units destroyed or damaged, according to the United Nations. Fewer than 4,500 have been reconstructed and more than 13,000 families remain displaced in this crowded strip of land along Israel’s southwestern border...

Cheering on the Olympic Refugee Team (CNS) Glued to the improvised screen set up on the patio of the Caritas house, the refugees yelled and they cried. But most of all, they cheered. They cheered for their two Congolese colleagues, Popole Misenga, 24, and Yolande Mabika, 28, who were competing in judo as part of the United Nations’ Refugee Olympic team. “They represent all of us today,” said an emotional Mirelle Muluila, also from Congo. “They represent the strength it takes to come from nothing and being considered a ‘nobody,’ to becoming a champion,” she cried out as others around her agreed...



10 August 2016
Greg Kandra




A Syrian fighter sits next to two food containers and a mirror in Douma, Syria, on 28 July. Pope Francis said 7 August that innocent men, women and children are paying the ultimate price in the continuing conflict raging in Syria. Wednesday, Turkey and Russia announced a meeting to find a solution to the conflict. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

Turkey, Russia to discuss solution for Syria (AP) A delegation of Turkish foreign ministry, military and intelligence officials is traveling to Russia for discussions on finding a solution to the Syria conflict, Turkey’s foreign minister said Wednesday. The announcement by Mevlut Cavusoglu came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg for the first time since the countries agreed to mend relations soured by Turkey’s downing of a Russian plane in November...

Israeli prosecutors charge UN employee in Gaza with aiding Hamas (The New York Times) Israeli prosecutors on Tuesday charged a Palestinian employee of the United Nations in the Gaza Strip with providing material assistance to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the territory, including helping to build a jetty for its military wing...

Russia accuses Ukraine of incursion (Reuters) Russia’s Federal Security Service said on Wednesday it had thwarted two armed Ukrainian attempts to get saboteurs into Crimea and dismantled a Ukrainian spy network inside the annexed peninsula. The FSB accused Ukrainian special forces of planning to carry out terrorist attacks inside Crimea targeting critical infrastructure and said an FSB employee and a Russian soldier had been killed in clashes with Ukrainian forces...

Muslim woman is helping Christians displaced by ISIS (Christian Post) Many are familiar with “The Vicar of Baghdad,” Canon Andrew White, the head of one of the most prominent relief charities helping thousands of Christians displaced by ISIS, but many don’t know that much of the work White gets credit for is actually carried out by a Muslim woman...

Syrian refugee relishes her Olympic dream (BBC) Syrian refugee Rami Anis says earning a standing ovation at Rio 2016 after setting a personal best in the men’s 100m freestyle is a “dream come true.” Anis clocked 54.25 seconds to finish 56th out of 59 swimmers in the heats. The 25-year-old fled war-torn Syria in 2015, travelling by boat across the Mediterranean Sea to Turkey before continuing to Belgium...



9 August 2016
Greg Kandra




Opposition fighters drive a tank in an eastern government sieged neighborhood of Aleppo. The UN says children in Aleppo are at grave risk of disease. (photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images)

UN: water and power cuts threaten millions in Syria (BBC) Children in the Syrian city of Aleppo are at “grave risk” of disease unless water supplies are immediately repaired, the UN children’s agency says. The United Nations says an immediate pause in fighting is needed to allow the water and electricity networks to be fixed. Some two million people are without vital supplies, the UN says...

More than 26,000 detained in Turkey crackdown (The Independent) The number of people detained by Turkish authorities following the failed coup to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has passed 26,000. The justice minister, Bekir Bozdag, told the state-run Anadolu Agency that 16,000 of those had been formally arrested and taken into custody while 6,000 detainees were being processed and almost 8,000 suspects remain free but under investigation...

Ukraine steps up military activity (Ukraine Today) Ukraine has deployed more military equipment and forces to strengthen its army units in the Kherson region — near the administrative border between mainland Ukraine and Russia-annexed Crimea. This was confirmed by Speaker of Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces Vladyslav Seleznev, according to Krym. Realii...

Lebanese athletes refuse to travel with Israel team in Rio (BBC) Lebanese athletes refused to share a bus with the Israel team to get to Friday’s Rio Olympic Games opening ceremony, members of both teams said. Lebanon and Israel are officially at war and have no diplomatic relations. The incident happened as the Lebanon team sat on the bus waiting to head to the Maracana stadium, before demanding the Israeli athletes must not board...

Caritas Jordan launches new project (Vatican Radio) Caritas Jordan celebrated the launching of a new project “Preparing to Excel in Emergency Response — PEER” on Monday, in the conference-center of a hotel in Amman. The project will be implemented by Caritas Jordan Volunteers Centre and in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and aims to increase synergies and interaction capabilities among Christian groups in Jordan who are engaged in various programs in order to face humanitarian emergencies...



8 August 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis renews his call for peace in Syria and denounces the lack of will from those with power to end the war. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope renews call for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his condemnation of violence and his call for peace in Syria on Sunday. The Holy Father’s appeals came following the Angelus prayer with the faithful gathered beneath the window of the Papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace...

Is Syrian peace attainable? (Catholic Register) Pope Francis has put the full weight of his global pulpit behind a Caritas Internationalis campaign urging governments, especially in the West, to get on with the business of ensuring a negotiated peace in Syria. “Syria: Peace is Possible” launched July 5 with a video by Pope Francis urging the world community to work and pray for peace in Syria...

Attacks on Christians in Egypt raise alarms (USA TODAY) Residents in the southern Egyptian village of Naj al-Nassara watched in horror as their beloved Archangel Mikhail Coptic Church burned to the ground. “We heard deafening sounds of explosions and crackling as the interior of the church gave way,” said Salim Qamhi, a farmer in Naj al-Nassara. “The fire had eaten up everything — the wooden sanctuary, the icons, the pews and the books.” The fire in mid-July came amid a rash of recent attacks that have alarmed Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, who blame the government for doing too little to protect them. About 10% of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population of 90 million are Christian — one of the oldest Christian communities in the world...

Erdogan backs return of death penalty following failed coup attempt (BBC) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told a vast rally in Istanbul that he would approve the return of the death penalty if it was backed by parliament and the public. He was speaking to a crowd of at least a million who had gathered in Turkey’s biggest city...

Caritas Lebanon reopens center for refugee women (Fides) A place to welcome, care for and accompany foreign women, who have often taken refuge in Lebanon and have been left alone or marginalized, with the risk of being victims of violence: this is the aim of the refuge called “The Oak,” a reception center reserved to women that Caritas Lubano has recently reopened, turning it into a comfortable, safe and welcoming place for women and their children...

Mercy, poor at center of Mother Teresa canonization events (Vatican Radio) The poor, the suffering and those who minister to them will be at the center of celebrations leading up to the canonization of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata at the Vatican. The main event — the canonization Mass — will begin at 10:30 a.m. 4 September, the Vatican announced on 5 August. A “family feast” for the poor, a musical, Masses and prayer vigils will precede her canonization, according to programs published by the Vatican and by the Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded...

Pope sends letter to Refugee Olympic Team in Rio (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent a letter to the Refugee Olympic Team as they prepared to compete in the Olympic Games 2016 taking place in Rio de Janeiro, wishing each of them success in the competition...



5 August 2016
Greg Kandra




Refugees’ tents are damaged after Russian airstrikes hit the Etarib district of Aleppo, Syria,
on 4 August 2016. (photo: Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Religious freedom threatened by Turkey’s response to coup (The Catholic Register) Civil service purges and mass arrests in Turkey since a 15 July failed coup attempt are bad news for religious freedom in what has been one of the Muslim world’s most open and democratic societies, said Canada’s former ambassador for religious freedom...

UN considers role in “deeply flawed” humanitarian plan for Syria (The Guardian) The United Nations is considering overseeing a Russian proposal to create humanitarian corridors for civilians who wish to leave besieged Aleppo, despite strong opposition from aid organizations. Confidential documents seen by the Guardian detailing internal UN deliberations on the Kremlin’s proposal, described as “deeply flawed” by humanitarian agencies, reveal the contours of a debate inside an organisation that wants to provide assistance to suffering civilians in Aleppo but fears being seen as an accomplice in an onslaught that has left a quarter of a million civilians under siege....

World Vision manager charged with funneling funds to Hamas (The New York Times) The Palestinian manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision, a major Christian aid organization, was charged by Israeli prosecutors on Thursday with infiltrating the charity on behalf of Hamas and funneling about $43 million in the group’s funds over the past six years to the military wing of the Islamist militant group...

Catholics protest demolition of cathedral in India (Vatican Radio) Tension prevailed at Tarapet in the city on the intervening night of Sunday and Monday when the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) authorities faced resistance from the clergy and lay people for demolishing a portion of the Roman Catholic church St. Peter’s Cathedral as part of the road-widening project. The church was built more than 100 years ago and is of undisputed cultural and artistic value...

Weddings offer break from gloom in Gaza (AP) In a time with little to be joyous about in Gaza, weddings have emerged as welcome festivities that offer a break from the often morose mood in the strip. The coastal territory has faced three wars with Israel over the last decade and a stifling blockade imposed by both Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant Hamas group violently overran the territory in 2007. But for the happy couple and their families, a wedding is both a respite from daily hardships and a focal point in the lives of both the well-off and the poor...



4 August 2016
Greg Kandra




An Iraqi Christian spruces up his shelter on 24 July with a cross and other Christian symbols at the the Ashti camp for internally displaced Iraqis in Ain Kawa, a Christian enclave of the Kurdish capital, Erbil. (photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)

Aid agencies brace for Mosul offensive (CNS) The upcoming military offensive to root out Islamic State militants from Mosul and surrounding villages will be a “huge challenge,” the United Nations says, as it expects about 1.5 million people to flee the warfare in a short amount of time…

Fallout from failed coup leaves Syria rebels in a lurch (The Wall Street Journal) Many of the top Turkish military and intelligence officials involved in programs to assist the rebellion, including the commander of Turkey’s 2nd Army responsible for borders with Syria and Iraq, have been detained for alleged involvement in the 15 July putsch…

UN: ISIS genocide of Yazidis is ‘ongoing’ (AP) The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group is still committing genocide and other crimes against the Yazidi minority in Iraq, a United Nations commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria said on Wednesday. The commission’s statement — released on the second anniversary of the initial ISIS attack on the Sinjar area in Iraq — urged action to prevent further death and suffering…

Indian delegation will head to Rome for canonization (UCanIndia) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will lead the Indian delegation to the canonisation of Mother Teresa at the Vatican in September, it was announced on Thursday…

Patriarch Kirill backs monument to Ivan the Terrible (The Guardian) The head of the Russian Orthodox church has backed what is planned to be Russia’s first monument to Ivan the Terrible, the controversial ruler who killed his own son…



Tags: Syria Iraq India Turkey Yazidi

3 August 2016
Greg Kandra




Pallbearers carry the coffin of the Rev. Jacques Hamel on 2 August outside the cathedral in Rouen, France. Father Hamel was killed 26 July in an attack on a church at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen; the attack was carried out by assailants linked to the Islamic State.
(photo: CNS/Jacky Naegelen, Reuters)


Thousands of mourners, including Muslims, turn out for funeral of murdered French priest (CNS) During the 2 August funeral Mass for the Rev. Jacques Hamel, killed a week earlier by men claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen stressed the need for forgiveness. “As brutal and unfair and horrible as (Father) Jacques’ death was, we have to look deep into our hearts to find the light,” he told the congregation of more than 1,500 at the Notre Dame Cathedral, while hundreds more watched the ceremony on a big screen outside in the rain...

Fighting rages in Aleppo (BBC) Intense fighting has continued around the Syrian city of Aleppo, where a rebel offensive is trying to break a government siege of rebel-held areas. Over the weekend, the rebels tried to reconnect an encircled area in the east with insurgent territory in the west. They set off a huge tunnel bomb underneath army positions in the strategic Ramouseh district. The army has been fighting back with the help of Russian air strikes to stop the rebels breaking through...

British jets bomb Saddam’s palace used by ISIS in Iraq (The Guardian) British fighter jets have bombed a former palace of Saddam Hussein being used as a training centre for Isis recruits in Iraq, according to the UK Ministry of Defense. A pair of RAF Tornados took part as a multinational squadron attacked the headquarters and training centre for foreign terrorist recruits, located close to the Tigris in Mosul...

U.S. will likely reach goal of admitting 10,000 refugees (International Business Times) While the U.S. acceptance rate of Syrian refugees has increased in recent months, the resettlement groups would like to see more done. America’s neighbor to the north has accepted almost 30,000 Syrian refugees since November 2015 and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a point of welcoming new arrivals in a public manner...

Aftermath of Turkey coup attempt delays reconciliation with Israel (The Jerusalem Post) Last month’s attempted coup in Turkey and its aftermath have pushed off normalization of Israeli-Turkish ties, since the requisite accord has not yet come before the parliament in Ankara...

Detroit imams send condolences to Archbishop (Archdiocese of Detroit) Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron was moved this week to have received correspondences from local Imams on behalf of Michigan Muslims, expressing condolences for the death of Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel, who was killed by terrorists in Normandy, France, on 26 July. “We are greatly saddened and troubled to hear of his tragic death and wish to express our sadness that so humble a servant of God was called to his Lord in such a cruel and violent manner,” wrote Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, co-chair of the Imams Council, in a letter sent to Archbishop Vigneron on behalf of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC)...

Pope Francis meets with refugees during audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with a group of 65 child refugees from Syria and Eritrea on Wednesday during his General Audience. The children are staying in the small town of Castelnuovo di Porto, north of Rome...



2 August 2016
Greg Kandra




A civilian carries a victim of an attack on the Ansari neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria,
on 31 July 2016. (photo: Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Rescuers say toxic gas dropped on Syrian town (Reuters) A Syrian rescue service operating in rebel-held territory said on Tuesday a helicopter dropped containers of toxic gas overnight on a town close to where a Russian military helicopter was shot down hours earlier. The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) accused President Bashar al Assad of being behind the attack. Assad has denied previous accusations of using chemical weapons...

Aleppo explained by the numbers (CNN) Some neighborhoods in Aleppo have been under fire for more than 80 consecutive days, leaving 6,000 people either dead or injured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The UK-based monitoring group said rebel-held areas in the city’s east have faced sustained attack by regime artillery and airstrikes, while rebel and Islamic factions have shelled regime-controlled areas in western neighborhoods...

Muslims and Christians in French town pray old bonds survive priest’s murder (The New York Times) In the wake of Father Hamel’s murder, Muslim and Christian communities around France came together over the weekend to show solidarity by attending each other’s religious services, in churches and mosques alike. But the services in Rouen, and in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a nearby suburb where Father Hamel was killed, took on a special resonance...

Turkey orders arrest of doctors in post-coup crackdown (Middle East Eye) Turkey has issued arrest warrants for 100 staff, including doctors, at the main military hospital in Ankara as part of the investigation into last month’s failed coup, local media reported. Police were searching the Gulhane Military Medical Academy hospital in the capital, private NTV television reported. It was not immediately clear if any suspects had been arrested...

Shrine in India elevated to basilica (Vatican Radio) St. Lawrence Shrine at Attur, Karkala, the Diocese of Udupi, has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica on Monday, 1 August 2016, making it the second Minor Basilica in the Southern Indian state of Karnataka and the 22nd Basilica in the country...

Ancient Russian icon comes to Canada (Globalnews.ca) Saskatoon’s St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church greeted the Kursk-Root Icon Wednesday — an item believers say is capable of miraculous healing. The gold and jewel-laden image depicts the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. The icon has been viewed by millions, according to Father Florin Soane with the church. “In a visible way, we can say, the Mother of God, the Mother of Church, is coming to us,” Soane said...



1 August 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Muslims attend Mass in France in a show of solidarity and sympathy following the brutal murder of a French priest by two men claiming fidelity to ISIS.
(video: Euronews/YouTube)


Muslims attend Mass in show of solidarity (AP) Muslims in France and Italy flocked to Mass on Sunday, a gesture of interfaith solidarity following a drumbeat of jihadi attacks that threatens to deepen religious divisions across Europe. From the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, only a few miles from where 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel was killed Tuesday by two Muslim fanatics, to Paris’ iconic Notre Dame, where the rector of the Mosque of Paris invoked a papal benediction in Latin, many churchgoers were cheered by the Muslims in their midst. Interviewed outside the cathedral in Rouen, Jacqueline Prevot called it “a magnificent gesture.” “Look at this whole Muslim community that attended Mass,” she said. “I find this very heartwarming...”

Pope Francis: it is not right to equate Islam with violence (CNS) An economy that focuses on the God of money, not human beings, is the foundation of terrorism, Pope Francis said. Speaking to journalists aboard his return flight from Krakow, Poland, 31 July, the pope also stressed that violence exists in all religions, including Catholicism, and it cannot be pinned to one single religion. “I do not like to speak of Islamic violence because everyday when I look through the papers, I see violence here in Italy,” the pope told reporters. “And they are baptized Catholics. There are violent Catholics. If I speak of Islamic violence, I also have to speak of Catholic violence,” he added...

Christians paying a price in Turkey (The Express) Turkey, which once boasted two million Christians, has barely 120,000 now, fewer even than Iran. But what shocked people most about July 15’s attacks was how much hatred still remains after almost 10 years. Though it is nominally a secular republic there can be little doubt that the government and Turkey’s 117,000 Sunni imams work together...

Russian helicopter shot down in Syria, killing 5 (AP) A Russian transport helicopter was shot down in opposition rebel territory in northern Syria on Monday and all five crew and officers onboard were killed, the Kremlin said, in the deadliest single incident for the Russian military since its involvement in Syria’s civil war...

Europe losing track of child refugees from Middle East (The Wall Street Journal) European governments are losing track of significant numbers of children who have entered the continent without their parents as refugees from war-torn areas in the Middle East and beyond...

More churches in India push for shroud burial instead of caskets (The Times of India) Space constraint is forcing churches in Mumbai to opt for green solutions for disposing of the dead. In the last six months, the St Blaise Church, Amboli, has had at least 15 shroud burials (body wrapped in cloth and lowered into the grave). The coffin was not used by families voluntarily. Father Franklin Mathias, parish priest, said space constraint, the environmental benefits and economics of a burial without a coffin prompted them to encourage shroud burial. He said the success of such burials depends entirely on the parishioners...







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