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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
20 March 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a Syrian couple visits the Vatican and describes the toll the war has taken on their country. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope to visit Egypt (Vatican Radio) In response to the invitation from the President of the Republic, the Bishops of the Catholic Church, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of the Mosque of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic trip to the Arab Republic of Egypt from 28 to 29 April 2017, visiting the city of Cairo...

Israel reportedly launches strike on Syria (The Los Angeles Times) An Israeli aircraft reportedly launched a strike into Syria on Sunday that left one person dead, in what appeared to be the second cross-border attack in three days as tensions between the neighbors escalated over the weekend...

Muslim family donates $15 million to Notre Dame for religious studies institute (The New York Times) The Ansaris announced a $15 million gift to the University of Notre Dame, one of the top Catholic universities, to create the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement With Religion. The institute will aim to deepen knowledge of religion and look to explain how the traditions and practice of various religions influence world events...

European Union gives $178 million to battle Ethiopian drought (Bloomberg) The European Union said it’s giving an extra 165 million euros ($178 million) to battle humanitarian crises in East Africa, including a famine in South Sudan and drought in Somalia. From the total, 100 million euros will be allocated to help responses to the crisis in South Sudan and an influx of its refugees to neighboring countries, the EU said Monday in an emailed statement. Humanitarian assistance for droughts in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya will be targeted with 65 million euros...

Hindu, Muslim and Christian actors portraying the Passion of Jesus in Kerala (Herald Malaysia) Artists from various Indian states are staging the Passion of Christ until 22 March in 14 parishes in Kerala. Most of the performers are Hindu and belong to the Pretna Kala Manch (Art Forum for Inspiration) Theatre Company. Speaking to AsiaNews, the Rev. Anand Mathew IMS, author, director and coordinator of the Vishwa Jyoti Communications (Indian Missionary Society Information Centre), said that the most dramatic scenes, like the one in which Christ is nailed to the cross, “provoked such strong emotions that many spectators burst into tears...”



16 March 2017
Greg Kandra




A man cries as he carries his daughter while walking from an ISIS-controlled part of Mosul toward Iraqi special forces soldiers during a 4 March battle in Mosul.
(photo: CNS/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)


100,000 flee as Iraqi forces advance in Mosul (Al Jazeera) Iraqi government forces battling ISIL for Mosul took control of a main bridge over the River Tigris on Wednesday and advanced towards the mosque where the group’s leader declared a caliphate in 2014...

Calls for world leaders to act on conflict in Syria (Vatican Radio) It is now been six years since the start of a brutal civil war that has engulfed Syria. The ongoing conflict has forced thousands of people to flee and has left countless others who have remained trapped in besieged areas throughout the country...

Holy See calls on U.N. to end conflict, human trafficking (Vatican Radio) “The Holy See urges the Security Council to take a greater role in the fight against the scourge of trafficking in persons.” That is the message of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who was invited this week to address the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Trafficking in persons in conflict situations: forced labour, slavery and other similar practices, at UN Headquarters in New York...

A message from Turkey, a nation under pressure (The New York Times) The country is battling two separate terrorism campaigns (one led by secular Kurds, the other by Islamic State extremists) and two land wars (in southeast Turkey and northern Syria). It is hosting more displaced Syrians — around 2.75 million of them — than any other country except Syria itself. It is caught between growing tensions over Syria between its NATO allies on one side and its neighbor, Russia, on the other. And it is torn by its own internal debates over the role of Islam in society...

Christian growth in India brings new concerns (The Irish Catholic) Can good news for a community be, simultaneously, bad news for that same community? It seems that this is possible if one is living within the Christian population of India...

Heroic nun is saving children (UCANIndia.in) Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, based in the capital of Madhya Pradesh, considers Sister Animuttil a “rare person who put her own life at risk for others. [She is] a great example of both the struggles of women and what women can do with conviction and faith,” he said...



15 March 2017
Greg Kandra




The damaged entrance of St. Mary’s Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Wednesday 15 March marks the sixth anniversary of the conflict in Syria. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

After six years, the war in Syria drags on (Fides) Wednesday, 15 March marks the sixth anniversary of the conflict in Syria. And contrary to what is reported by international media, Syria “continues to suffer.” This is the key message that the Jesuit Refugee Service wanted to publish through a dossier that contains a lot of data related to the situation...

Pastor of Aleppo: ‘Pope’s donation will help young Syrian families’ (Vatican Radio) The pastor of Aleppo in Syria says a recent donation from Pope Francis and the Roman Curia of €100,000 will go to couples and young families in need...

Iraqi forces advance on mosque in battle for Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi government forces battling Islamic State for Mosul took control of a main bridge over the Tigris river on Wednesday and advanced towards the mosque where the group’s leader declared a caliphate in 2014, federal police said. The seizure of the Iron Bridge, linking eastern Mosul with the militant-held Old City on the west side, means the government holds three of the five bridges over the Tigris and bolsters Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s assertion that the battle is reaching its final stages...

French cabinet to vote on taking in 500 refugees from Lebanon (The Daily Star) The French Cabinet is set to vote at ElysÉe Palace for a new protocol to take in 500 Syrian refugees from Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency reported Tuesday...

Displaced Coptic families to receive apartments (Egypt Daily News) Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Waly is expected to start on Saturday evening the delivery of the first batch of residential apartments to the Coptic families that have arrived to Ismailia after escaping the North Sinai city of Al-Arish. This exodus came after Coptic citizens faced unprecedented threats from militants. According to the Copts United news website, there will be an official ceremony to deliver the apartments, which will see the presence of Ismailia’s governor and other high-ranking officials from the Ismailia diocese...

Russian Orthodox Church will mark St. Patrick’s Day (Radio Free Europe) The Russian Orthodox Church has said it will mark St. Patrick’s Day and more than a dozen other days commemorating saints who lived in the west before the Great Schism that divided Christianity into east and west in 1054. The move to recognize the saint days will also likely give renewed spirit to celebrations of the most recognizable of the 16 chosen by the church — St. Patrick. But there is a twist. The Russian Orthodox Church will mark the day for Ireland’s patron saint in line with the Julian calendar on 30 March, rather than the Gregorian calendar’s date of 17 March...



13 March 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from last December, debris is seen amid pews after an explosion inside St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. A bomb ripped through the cathedral complex, killing at least 25 people and wounding dozens, mostly women and children. The Vatican confirmed today that Pope Francis is considering a papal visit to Egypt, but no timetable has been set.
(photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)


Pope considering a trip to Egypt (Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, has clarified that the possibility of a papal visit to Egypt is being studied, but as yet there are no definite plans for such a trip, with regard either to prospective dates or to a possible program...

Coptic bishop: Egypt’s Christians set a standard of forgiveness (CNA) Despite being victims of harassment and violence, Egypt’s Coptic Christians have set a standard of forgiveness that everyone should imitate, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the U.K. has said. Egypt’s Christians have been loyal, peaceful, and forgiving amid a recent spate of violence that has driven hundreds from their homes, Bishop Anba Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the U.K., told CNA in an interview. “I take a huge pride in their witness and in their example,” he said...

Indian bishops support attempt to stop land grabs (Vatican Radio) Tribal people from the eastern Indian Jharkhand state have been campaigning for the governor to reject amendments to laws that they say adversely affect their culture and existence...

Bishops say U.S. must address need of immigrants, show compassion (CNS) While one Catholic archbishop was urging a fix to the country’s immigration laws before a Catholic crowd, another was pleading with the government not to separate mothers from their children while in immigration detention, and yet another, a cardinal, was accompanying a grandfather to an appointment that could have resulted in his deportation. Catholic Church leaders in the U.S. spent the week of 6-10 March trying to allay fears, urging compassion, not just from the government from those who are not seeing “God’s creation” when they malign unauthorized immigrants...

Landslide in Ethiopia garbage dump kills at least 35 (The New York Times) A landslide swept through an enormous garbage dump here on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital late on Saturday, killing at least 35 people and leaving several dozen missing, residents said, as officials vowed to relocate those who called the landfill home. Most of the dead were women and children, and more bodies were expected to be found in the coming hours on Sunday, said Dagmawit Moges, a spokeswoman for the Addis Ababa city government...



10 March 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis is shown beginning his Lenten retreat at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome. The pope completed his retreat on Friday 10 March. In a gesture of solidarity, he made a donation to the poor people of Aleppo.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)


Pope concludes retreat, sends donation to the poor of Aleppo (L’Osservatore Romano) Prayer and solidarity united Pope Francis and the Roman Curia with war torn Aleppo during the week of spiritual exercises which closed on Friday, 10 March. The Pontiff celebrated a Mass for Syria on the morning of the last day of the retreat in Ariccia. In a gesture of closeness and solidarity, and with the contribution of the Roman Curia, he donated of 100,000 Euros for the poor people of Aleppo...

Russian Orthodox Church adds names of Western saints to its menology (TASS) The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church took a historic decision on Thursday to enlarge the Russian Orthodox menology with the names of a number of saints, who bore with witness of Christian faith in the West European and Central European lands before the split of the united Christian Church in 1054...

Coptic bishop: ISIS wants to divide Christians and Muslims (National Catholic Register) Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of the United Kingdom and a spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as an advocate for religious freedom, told the Register in an interview that Egypt’s Christians need the solidarity of their fellow Christians around the world...

Surge in vandalism against Jews and Muslims prompts calls for dialogue in Canada (Catholic Register) A surge in vandalism and hate speech against Jews and Muslims has prompted a call for the revival of a national platform for Christian-Jewish or Christian-Muslim dialogue...

Gaza firm making Jewish skullcaps (AFP) In the heart of the Gaza Strip’s Shati refugee camp, machines buzz as Mohammed Abu Shanab’s employees sew small, round pieces of cloth: Jewish skullcaps for export to Israel. It may seem an unlikely product to be made in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas and hit by three wars with Israel since 2008, but with unemployment and poverty rampant, some in Gaza will take any business they can get...



9 March 2017
Greg Kandra




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

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

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

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

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

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



8 March 2017
Greg Kandra




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

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

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

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

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

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



7 March 2017
Greg Kandra




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

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

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

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

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

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

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



6 March 2017
Greg Kandra




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

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

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

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

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

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

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



2 March 2017
Greg Kandra




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


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

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

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

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

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







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