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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
15 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Mersen Chala shows a picture of his brother, Dinka Chala, who was killed by Ethiopian forces on 16 December for alleged participation in protests. (photo: Zacharias Abebeker/AFP/Getty Images)

Ethiopia confronts its worst ethnic violence in years (Washington Post) The cows are back in the valley near the village of Wenchi in Ethiopia’s highlands, after being driven out five years ago by the arrival of a Dutch agricultural company. They returned in the past few weeks, after villagers burned the warehouses filled with seed potatoes that were to be planted on communal grazing lands that authorities had turned over to the Solagrow PLC company. This attack is among dozens of demonstrations taking place for the past two months across Ethiopia’s Oromia region, which comprises a third of the country. Protesters from the Oromo ethnic group say the government is trying to take away their lands and use them for everything from industrial development to luxury housing projects. The response has been harsh; as many as 140 people have been killed by security forces using live rounds to quell the protests…

ISIS releases 16 Christian hostages of Khabur (Fides) Yesterday, ISIS released 16 more Assyrian Christians who were part of the large group of hostages that they captured and deported on 23 February, following an offensive against the predominantly Christian Assyrian villages scattered along the Khabur valley river of Hassake. Eight members of the group of released hostages were children. All appeared in decent condition. “This time,” said Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassake-Nisibis, “the hostages released were left near the city of Tel Tamar, and from there were able to reach their village of Tel Jazira…”

Mini-republics: A Syrian village seeks to survive amid carnage (Der Spiegel) Even as war continues to rage in Syria, normal people in the country are doing their best to survive in places like the village of Korin. It has transformed into a kind of mini-republic and has WiFi on the town square. But its population is slowly dwindling…

Russian military declares new objective: Humanitarian aid in Syria (Reuters) Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday a new objective of Russian forces in Syria was to provide humanitarian aid. Russian air force planes have delivered 24 tons of aid in the region around the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, a ministry official said in a televised briefing…

United Methodist Church blacklists five Israeli banks (United Methodist Church) A recent decision by the United Methodist Church’s pension fund to halt investments in five Israeli banks is in keeping with its plan to use a human rights guideline for investments, announced a year ago. The banks are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot. In a recent press release, United Methodist Kairos Response, an advocacy group, said it was pleased with the pension agency’s action. The group called the move “the first time a major church pension fund has acted to preclude investment in Israeli banks that sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land…”



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Israel ISIS

14 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, officials describe efforts to bring humanitarian relief to the starving city of Madaya in Syria. (video: Rome Reports)

Aid begins arriving in besieged Syrian city of Madaya (CNN) A second aid convoy is on the way to the besieged Syrian city of Madaya, where numerous people are reportedly starving, according to a U.N. source in the convoy. The new convoy is made up of about 50 trucks carrying wheat flour, medicine, blankets and winter clothes, the source said early Thursday. The source said the convoy hopes to reach Madaya shortly...

Dramatic conditions of Iraqi and Syrian children (L’Osservatore Romano) Women and children are the primary victims of the horrors that accompany the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, which are mostly the work of the so-called Islamic State. British daily newspaper, Daily Mail, reports the testimony of several young people who have escaped the Jihadist group in northern Iraq. These witnesses stated that they were trained — brain-washed — to sacrifice themselves as suicide bombers...

Watchdog group: 2015 “worst year” for Christian persecution (RNS) With North Korea leading the way and Islamic extremism rapidly expanding, 2015 was the “worst year in modern history for Christian persecution,” according to a group tracking this issue. Iraq is in second place on Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. It’s the first of 35 countries on the list where Islamic extremism “has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing,” said the report, released Wednesday...

Update on refugee families being housed at Vatican parishes (Vatican Radio) Two refugee families are now being hosted by the two parishes of the Vatican, in response to the 6 September 2015, Angelus appeal of Pope Francis for every parish in Europe to welcome a family of refugees...

Meeting street children is like meeting Christ (Fides) Meeting, visiting, assisting street children means encountering Christ: this is what a group of young Catholics in Nagpur, a city in central India experienced when they went in search of street children. Pushpa Singh, one of the young people involved, told Fides: “At Epiphany, the Wise Men make their way to the Child Jesus. For us it was the same experience. We saw the Child Jesus in the poor, marginalized, abandoned children”...

Closed Catholic church in Pennsylvania reopens as Russian Orthodox (Wilkes Barre Times Leader) After being vacant for more than three years, the former St. Rocco’s Roman Catholic Church on the corner of Tompkins and West Oak streets has reopened its doors as St. Irene Russian Orthodox Outside Church of Russia. The church plans to open more doors in the community by purchasing homes in the Greater Pittston area for parishioners in need...



13 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian children are rescued from the wreckage after Russian airstrike hit a school at Zibdiyye neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. (photo: Andalou Agency/Getty Images)

U.N. relief official calls for immediate end to blockades in Syria (The New York Times) The head of the United Nations’ relief efforts for Syria pleaded with all warring parties on Tuesday to lift their sieges on key towns and let aid agencies deliver food and medical care to people stuck behind front lines. “The immediate thing to be done is to lift sieges everywhere,” the humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, told reporters by phone from Damascus, the Syrian capital, where he is based...

Eight children, teacher killed in Russian airstrike in Syria (Reuters) Eight children and their teacher were killed by a Russian airstrike that hit a school in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo on Monday, according to a leading human rights monitor. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that more than 20 people were also injured in the strike, all of whom were teachers and students at a school in the town of Anjara, located around nine miles north of the city of Aleppo. The death toll is expected to rise as the search for survivors in the rubble of the school building continues, Al Jazeera reports...

U.S.-led coalition destroys ISIS cash storehouse in Iraq (USA TODAY) Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition blew up a warehouse in Iraq where the Islamic State had stored millions of dollars in cash, the U.S. military disclosed Tuesday. Coalition aircraft targeted a “cash distribution center” near Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which is under control of the extremist group, the U.S military said in a daily report on details of airstrikes...

Pope prays for victims in Turkey (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis Wednesday remembered the victims of Tuesday’s suicide bomb attack in Istanbul which left ten people dead...

Archbishop advocates for Christian schools in Jordan (Fides) In the historical life of the Churches in the Middle East, there has always been a valuable role carried out by Christian schools especially in the present scenario ravaged by sectarian conflict. This was strongly advocated by Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, during his intervention at the conference for the training of Catholic school head masters being held in Amman...

Dialogue between Vishnus and Christians in India (Fides) In India there is need to bear witness to the power of prayer combined with action to build a community of peace and harmony: this is the result of the recent session of dialogue between Christians and Vishnus, which was attended by the Office for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism in the Bishops’ Conference of India...



12 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Turkish police secure the area after an explosion on 12 January 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. At least 10 people have been killed and 15 wounded in a suicide bombing near tourists in the central Istanbul historic Sultanahmet district, which is home to world-famous monuments including the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Turkish President Erdogan has stated that the suicide bomber was of Syrian origin. (photo: Can Erok/Getty Images)

Vatican expresses sorrow over Turkey bombing (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, on Tuesday expressed his sorrow for the terrorist attack which took place in Istanbul, Turkey. “What is happening [in Turkey] pains us. What is happening there, what continues to repeat itself, confirms that the best medicine in the face of these evils is always mercy”...

Pope acknowledges appointment of new bishop in Kerala (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday acknowledged the appointment of a new auxiliary bishop to a diocese in southern India’s Kerala state belonging to the eastern rite Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. At its meeting at Mount Saint Thomas in Kerala, the Syro-Malabar Church Synod elected Father Jose Pulickal as Auxiliary Bishop of Kanjirapally, headed by Bishop Mathew Arackal. Unlike in the Latin-rite Church where the Pope directly appoints bishops, the synods of eastern-rite Catholic churches have the autonomy of appointing their own bishops, to which the Pope gives his assent...

Kurdish militants attack checkpoint controlled by Christians (Fides) Kurdish militiamen of the YPG yesterday attacked by surprise a checkpoint in the Governorate of Qamishli in northeastern Syria, which was presided by men belonging to the militia of the self-defense Sootoro, formed mainly of Syrian and Assyrian Christians who act in coordination with the Syrian government army. The Kurdish attack provoked a firefight, which lasted an hour, during which — according to reports from the Assyrian International News Agency — the Assyrian militant David Gabriel was killed, and three Kurdish soldiers were injured. According to other sources, the three Kurdish soldiers may have also died...

U.S. bishop says Palestinians in Cremisan Valley have “lost hope” (CNS) A U.S. bishop visiting the Holy Land for the second year in a row said Palestinians whose land has been divided by the Israeli separation barrier “have lost hope.” “It was very sad to see the present situation where individuals have their lands confiscated and trees uprooted,” said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico. “This is a sign of something much larger. It seems to be a diminishing of the rights of Palestinians to be there and a lack of acknowledgment of their legitimate right to be present whether in the state of Israel or in Palestinian lands.” Bishop Cantu and 12 bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America visited the Cremisan Valley 10 January as part of the Holy Land Coordination, in which they come to show solidarity with Palestinian Christians...



Tags: Syria Palestine Israel Kerala Turkey

11 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis addresses the diplomatic corps at the Vatican on 11 January. During his speech, the pope dedicated key parts to the “grave crisis of migration.”
(photo: CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)


Pope Francis addresses “grave crisis” of migration in speech (L’Osservatore Romano) In his speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis dedicated the most significant passages to “the grave crisis of migration which we are facing.” The diplomats had gathered in the Regia Hall on Monday morning, 11 January, for the traditional audience at the beginning of the year. The choice was motivated by the Pope’s wish to help discern the causes of the crisis and “consider possible solutions,” in order to defeat “the inevitable fears associated with this massive and formidable phenomenon”...

Vatican promotes message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Vatican Radio) The World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on Sunday 17 January 2016. Pope Francis’ message to mark the day was released in October 2015. Based on the theme, “Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy,” the Holy Father recalls what he said in the Bull of indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus; that is, “at times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives”...

In Gaza, visiting bishops see signs of hope amid continued destruction (CNS) From a new playground at the Catholic parish in Gaza to transitional housing provided by a U.S. agency, visiting bishops from three continents said they saw signs of hope and resilience amid the continuing poverty and destruction in the Gaza Strip. “There is still a lot of suffering, but I’ve seen more signs of hope. This year one of the main things (that impressed me) was this sort of hope,” said Bishop Lionel Gendron of St. Jean-Longueuil, Quebec. “There are a few signs that it is possible to rebuild in a very simple way. Last year, I thought it was truly awful; this year, hope is there”...

Christians and Muslims visit Christian cemetery desecrated in Iraq (Fides) On Sunday 10 January, a delegation of Christian and Muslim representatives visited the Christian cemetery in Kirkuk, desecrated on 23 December, with damage to several tombs and gravestones...

Kerala bishops slam state government over farmers’ issues (Vatican Radio) The Catholic bishops of southern India’s Kerala state have slammed the state government for not addressing the issues of farmers. In a circular, which was read out in Catholic churches in the state on Sunday, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) urged farmer cutting across religious lines to unite to strengthen the Indian Farmers’ Movement (Infarm), based in Kottayam district...

New book traces the ancient Christian civilization of Ethiopia (Irish Catholic) Here is a really remarkable book on which to begin the New Year, a book that will open up for many a new horizon of Christian culture and faith. This long book is a 17th-century biography of a very holy woman. But its distinction is that she is African, and the book contains elements of autobiography in a biographical framework. It is the work of an African author and has long been regarded as an important book by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahado Church as the Ethiopians now prefer to call it. As the earliest known biography of an African woman it is unique and it should be much better known...



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Refugees Ethiopia Muslim

8 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from 6 January, Syrian civil defense team members in Aleppo hold banners as they gather to protest for civilians who starved to death in Madaya, Syria. The Syrian government has agreed to allow aid into the rebel-held village.
(photo: Beha el-Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Syrian government to allow aid into besieged town (BBC) The Syrian government has agreed to allow aid into the besieged rebel-held village of Madaya, the UN says, amid reports of residents starving to death. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said that if access were secured, trucks could begin to arrive by Monday. Aid agencies say conditions in Madaya, near Damascus, are “extremely dire”...

Call for homes taken from Christians in Iraq to be returned (Fides) The Chaldean Christian politician Pascale Warda, former immigration minister in the first government of transition following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, has publicly expressed her satisfaction regarding Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s stand on the need to return to their rightful owners homes and property illegally stolen in recent months from Christian families in Baghdad, Kirkuk and other Iraqi cities. As reported by Iraqi media, including the website ankawa.com, Pascale Warda has asked all Iraqi citizens to support the reinstatement of the rights of the Christians owners supported by Muqtada al-Sadr...

Coptic Patriarch Tawadros: terrorism does not distinguish between Christians and Muslims (Fides) Terrorism “does not make any distinction between Christians and Muslims,” and even when it is fueled by religious ideology, it indiscriminately affects all believers in God, fomenting sectarian strife where people kill each other for “human stupidity” for “money” or to assert “their interests.” This is what Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II said during some interviews released on 7 January by different Egyptian media...

Photographer captures Gaza’s efforts to rebuild (TIME) Italian photographer Federico Scoppa headed to Gaza for the first time in 2013, eager to make a contribution to the wide documentation of the enclave’s dire reality. “The initial idea was just to go [there] and see what the results of the bombing were,” Scoppa tells TIME, “but while walking the devastated streets and crossing neighborhoods completely knocked down, I started noticing spots of color that little by little appeared,” he recalls. “Then I saw that there were people who were coming back and settling back in their ravaged houses”...

Orthodox faithful mark Christmas (AP) As Christmas approached across the sprawling country’s nine time zones, Russians flocked to churches for long and solemn liturgies. At Moscow’s enormous Christ The Savior Cathedral, the service began at 11 p.m. on Wednesday and stretched two and a half hours, led by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, with the devout standing shoulder-to-shoulder. President Vladimir Putin attended a midnight service at a church in the village of Turginovo, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) northwest of Moscow, where his parents were baptized...



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Orthodox

7 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Syriac Catholics, most of them Iraqi refugees, receive communion at a Divine Liturgy in a makeshift church in Amman, Jordan. The pope today erected a new exarchate for the church
in Canada. (photo: Cory Eldridge)


Pope Francis erects new Syro-Catholic Apostolic Exarchate in Canada (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday (7 Jan) erected the Syro-Catholic Apostolic Exarchate in Canada with the Eparchal seat in Montréal (Québec), nominating as its first Apostolic Exarch Rev. Antoine Nassif. The new Apostolic Exarchate consists of the Canadian territory taken from the Syro-Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark...

Lebanon strains under the weight of refugees (CNS) While the flow of migrants into Europe and the West has sparked controversy, Lebanon continues to bear the brunt of absorbing massive numbers of refugees. A commonly cited figure is that one in four people in Lebanon is displaced from Syria. “The impact of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees on the Lebanese society is huge and multidimensional,” [Michel] Constantin [of CNEWA] told CNS, stressing that the Syrian crisis will soon enter its fifth year, “with no end in sight...”

In Epiphany message, pope says “Seek out signs of God” (CNS) Go out and seek the signs God is offering everyone today that will lead to Christ, Pope Francis said. The thirst for God is present in everyone, and it’s the church’s task to help those with “a restless heart” by pointing them to the true light of Christ, the pope said 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany, which marks the manifestation of Jesus as savior to the world...

Christians face violence in Odisha, India Christian leaders ask government to provide protection against Hindu hardliners who continue to threaten the community in eastern Indian Odisha state that has witnessed major anti-Christian violence...

Teachers in Nineveh rebel against school programs imposed by ISIS (Fides) More than 30 teachers working in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, currently under the control of ISIS, were stopped and arrested for refusing to follow the new education programs imposed by jihadists in the schools of the region. The news of the arrests of “rebel” teachers was reported by local sources to the Kurdish media that monitor the north of Iraq, such as News Agency Ara. The teachers arrested will be judged by the Islamic court established by the jihadist regime, that in Iraq has its stronghold in Mosul...

Ukraine set to rename over 900 towns with Soviet names (Reuters) More than 900 Ukrainian towns and villages will be renamed over the course of the year, in accordance with Ukraine’s push to remove commemorations of Soviet and Communist-era figures, the head of Ukraine’s state Institute for National Memory told Channel 5 on Wednesday. Since Ukraine’s pro-European Maidan protests toppled the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych administration, the Ukrainian government has adopted a series of laws on “decommunization” — a process of removing displays, venerating anything Soviet...

Catholic agencies plead for help as Ethiopian drought worsens (Catholic Register) As the worst Ethiopian drought in 60 years threatens as many as 20 million people living in more than half of Africa’s second largest country, Catholic aid agencies in the desperate nation are asking for help as the crisis continues into 2016...

Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas (Vatican Radio) Orthodox Christians from around the world celebrate Christmas on Thursday (7 January), in line with the Julian calendar. Traditions vary from country to country but involve liturgies, jumping into frigid water, dancing, log-burning ceremonies, street processions and fireworks displays...



6 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from October, refugees from Turkey arrive in a rubber boat on a beach near Molyvos, on the Greek island of Lesbos. At least 27 refugees attempting a similar trip drowned Monday night. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Migrants drown crossing from Turkey to Greece (Vatican Radio) At least 27 migrants and refugees from the Middle East are reported to have drowned Monday night while trying to cross from Turkey to the eastern Greek islands...

JRS: Urgent need to help Syrian children (Fides) Approximately 2.8 million Syrian children are out of school as a result of the war, 550,000 of whom are in Lebanon. The Jesuit Refugee Service center in Jbeil serves nearly 500 Syrian refugee children, including providing psychosocial support to children through Peace Education classes — an experience that allows you to see the “educational emergency” that must be addressed urgently, so as not to jeopardize the future generations of young Syrians. The report of the activities of the center in Jbeil, released by JRS, shows that all of the children at the centre have been touched by war, with mortars and bombs a daily risk...

Iraq offers to mediate Saudi dispute amid fears of “disaster” (The Washington Post) Iraq offered Wednesday to mediate between neighbors Saudi Arabia and Iran in efforts to ease a standoff that threatens to expand sectarian fault lines across the region. The fast-moving diplomatic meltdown between Shiite power Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has raised global alarms over its potential spillover across the Middle East, including fragile peace efforts in Syria. “We cannot stay silent in this crisis,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari said at a news conference in Tehran...

Hackers suspected in Ukraine blackout (The Washington Post) U.S. Homeland Security and intelligence agencies are analyzing computer code from what appear to be one of the first known cyber attacks that resulted in an electrical power outage — this one in Ukraine. The 23 December incidents, which lasted several hours and affected tens of thousands of people, were reported by Ukraine power authorities in the capital region and in the western part of the country...

Gaza gets first new hospital in a decade (Reuters) The Gaza Strip’s struggling healthcare system will get some much needed help in 2016 after the first new hospital in a decade opened its doors in the territory last month and as two more foreign-funded clinics are set to launch this year. After nearly five years of construction, with delays caused by fighting and restrictions on imports imposed by Israel and Egypt, the Indonesia Hospital opened its doors on 27 December and has since been treating more than 250 patients a day...

Vatican approves opening sainthood cause for nearly 100 murdered Indian Christians (CNA) The green light has officially been given to open the cause for sainthood of the nearly 100 Christians murdered in the Indian state of Odisha in 2008. The opening of the cause is a source of pride for the relatives of those killed, but also “for the whole Church this is a pride because our men, our women and our children, those who were martyred for the faith, they are not forgotten,” Archbishop John Barwa told CNA on 5 January...



5 January 2016
Greg Kandra




The video above, from late December, describes the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping of the Rev. Dhiya Aziz, who was finally freed in Syria several days after his disappearance.
(video: Rome Reports)


Kidnapped Franciscan priest reportedly freed in Syria (Vatican Radio) The Custody of the Holy Land announced late Monday that the Rev. Dhiya Aziz, OFM has been liberated, and the Custos, Franciscan Father Pier Battista Pizzaballa confirmed the announcement in brief remarks to Vatican Radio. “The situation remains very grave and dramatic in Syria, though we are doubtless happy and relieved that Father Dhiya [Aziz] has been released,” he said...

Syriac church leaders angered by ISIS attack in Qamishli (Catholic Register) Syriac church leaders denounced the year-end terrorist attack that targeted Christian-owned restaurants in Qamishli, Syria. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the 30 December attack, which killed 20 people, 13 of them Christian, and injured more than 40. “Most victims were young people willing to welcome the New Year with hope and joy,” Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan told Catholic News Service from the patriarchate in Beirut. Instead, he said, “In tears and gloomy hope, Christians of Qamishli welcomed 2016...”

Ukraine debates whether to celebrate Christmas twice (Reuters) Ukraine, which marks Christmas on 7 January, according to Orthodox Christian tradition, has embarked upon a national debate about whether it should also celebrate on 25 December a step that would bring it in line with Western Europe. The debate — which reflects a re-examination of national identity under the impact of the falling-out with Russia — could sharply divide opinion and comes amid a heightened battle for influence between the Russian and Ukrainian branches of the Orthodox Church...

Russian Orthodox Church becoming more visible in Putin’s Russia (Christian Science Monitor) The 1993 Constitution strictly defines Russia as a secular state, in which no religion is the official or obligatory one. But many people in post-Soviet Russia yearn for ideological certainties to fill the void left by communism. And with the ascent of Vladimir Putin and Russia’s new order, the Russian Orthodox Church, an ancient institution that was nearly annihilated during seven decades of Soviet rule, is returning to a highly visible and central role in the life of the country...

Cleemis praises multiplicity of voices in India (The Hindu) Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, head of the Syro-Malankara Church, has stressed the rich heritage of Hindu society in keeping tolerance and protection of smaller communities which is a way of life for society...

Pope’s monthly prayer intentions to be released on video (CNS) Pope Francis will deliver his monthly prayer intentions on video over social media as part of a Jesuit-run global prayer network. The new video messages, featuring the pope asking for prayers and action on various challenges facing the world today, will begin on 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord...



4 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Bishop Thomas Mar Eusebius Naickamparambil was nominated to be the first bishop of the newly-erected Syro-Malankara Eparchy of St. Mary, Queen of Peace, of the United States and Canada.
(photo: Vatican Radio)


Pope Francis erects new Syro-Malankara eparchy in the United States (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday erected the Syro-Malankara Eparchy of St. Mary, Queen of Peace, of the United States and Canada, nominating Bishop Thomas Mar Eusebius Naickamparambil as its first Bishop. The Eparchy consists of 11,500 faithful, especially in the US states of Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Florida, New York, and Washington, D.C., served by 19 priests in 19 parishes or missions. Three women religious Institutes also operate within the Eparchy’s territory. The Eparchy’s seat will be at St. Vincent de Paul Malankara Catholic Cathedral in Elmont, New York...

Saudi execution has “catastrophic effects” throughout Middle East (Fides) The sentencing to death of Shiite Imam Nimr Bakr al-Nimr, commissioned by the Saudi government on 2 January “has as immediate effect the worsening of the Lebanese institutional crisis, but its catastrophic effects are already being registered on all the scenarios of conflict that plague the Middle East, from Syria to Iraq and Yemen.” This is how Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, describes the consequences triggered following the execution of the Shiite religious leader...

Holy See, State of Palestine Comprehensive Agreement goes into force (Vatican Radio) The Holy See announced on Saturday (2 Jan 2016) that the Comprehensive Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine has come into full force. The Comprehensive Agreement was signed by the Holy See and the State of Palestine on 26 June 2015. It “regards essential aspects of the life and activity of the Church in Palestine, while at the same time reaffirming the support for a negotiated and peaceful solution to the conflict in the region...”

Ukraine bans Russian food products Ukraine says it will ban food products from Russia starting on January 10 in response to a similar measure taken by Moscow. The announcement comes amid East-West tensions over clashes in Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists...

Starvation as a tool in the war in Syria (Al Jazeera) Fighting from within, bombed from above, and now starvation. Syria's struggling population continues to dwindle as lives are lost to war and hunger. More than half of all Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN says it is unable to help around two million children because they're blocked by fighting or siege. In some areas, the price of food has skyrocketed so that a kilogramme of rice now costs $100. While civilians are starving in Syrian towns, the international community is stalled on a political solution...

Earthquake rocks northeast India (Reuters) A powerful earthquake struck northeast India and Bangladesh on Monday, killing at least 11 people and injuring nearly 200, with efforts to reach remote areas where people may be trapped hampered by severed power lines and telecommunication links. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.8 magnitude quake was 57 km (35 miles) deep and struck 29 km (18 miles) west of Imphal, capital of India’s Manipur state, which borders Myanmar...







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