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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
13 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis exchanges gifts with the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri at the Vatican.
(photo: Vatican Radio/Reuters)


Pope Francis receives Lebanese prime minister (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Rafic Hariri on Friday morning, in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. A Communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See reports that the Pope and the Prime Minister held cordial conversation over a range of subjects, including various aspects of the situation in Lebanon...

How a seed bank, almost lost in Syria’s war, could help feed a warming planet (The New York Times) Ali Shehadeh is a plant conservationist from Syria. He hunts for the genes contained in the seeds we plant today and what he calls their “wild relatives” from long ago. His goal is to safeguard those seeds that may be hardy enough to feed us in the future, when many more parts of the world could become as hot, arid and inhospitable as it is here. But searching for seeds that can endure the perils of a hotter planet has not been easy...

Animal blessing in India brings together different faiths (Crux) Among the things that can bring people of different faiths together is a love of animals. In India, the traditional blessing of the animals, associated with the feast of St. Francis, brings more than Christian families to one Catholic parish. “People from all faiths are welcome. Many people of other religions bring their animals for the blessing,” Father Joe D’ Souza, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church told Crux. “There were 8 non-Christian families present, belonging to the Parsi and Hindu faiths,” adding the animals break all religious barriers...

Unity deal offers hope for Palestinians (The New York Times) After a decade of hostility and recrimination, the two main Palestinian factions came together in Cairo on Thursday to sign a reconciliation deal that holds out the tantalizing prospect of a united Palestinian front...



12 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. (photo: Vatican Radio/AFP)

Pope urges Oriental Churches to continue courageous witness (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday celebrated Mass in the Basilica of St Mary Major to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Congregation for Eastern Churches. In his homily the pope encouraged all Christians of the Oriental Churches to continue with their courageous witness, despite the dramatic persecutions that they suffer...

Syro-Malabar Catholics rejoice in Pope Francis’ recent moves (UCANews.com) In a historic move, Pope Francis has extended the administrative powers of the Syro-Malabar Church across India, removing restrictions imposed since the arrival of Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. Announcing the establishment of two new dioceses for the Eastern-rite church in letter to all India bishops, Pope Francis also authorized it to have pastoral powers across India, a move resisted by the majority Latin-rite bishops in the past...

The Christians fighting for freedom in Syria (National Review) The soldiers of the Syriac Military Council sit on a rug in an abandoned home in the urban wreckage of the caliphate’s capital, perhaps 200 yards from ISIS, drinking tea and chain-smoking. The predominantly Christian unit is a small but symbolically important part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have encircled ISIS and are slowly closing in...

Half of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon out of school (Middle East Monitor) Six years after the start of the Syrian crisis half of all Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are still out of school despite efforts by the UN and other parties, All4syria.info reported yesterday. Lebanese sources said that the ministry of education carried out several positive measures to bring Syrian refugee children into schools yet only 52 per cent joined in the 2017-2018 school year. Lebanon’s education ministry could only provide schooling for 250,000 children...

Prayers of the persecuted around the world (The New York Times) Though Monika Bulaj grew up in Communist Poland, she was nonetheless a devoutly Catholic child who studied mystics and dreamed of a life as a cloistered nun. But her teenage discovery that her grandmother’s town was once home to thousands of Jews who perished in the Holocaust set her on a different path: a 30-year journey documenting persecuted religious minorities around the world...



11 October 2017
Greg Kandra




In this file photograph, novices of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, part of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India, gather for morning prayer. In a letter, Pope Francis has urged unity among Catholics of different rites in India and authorized creating two new parishes.
(photo: Sean Sprague)


Pope urges unity among rites in India, authorizes creation of two new eparchies (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday urged for a “fruitful and harmonious cooperation” among the bishops of the three ritual Churches of India, as they reach out to provide pastoral care to their respective faithful, spread out in various parts of the country. “In India itself, overlapping jurisdictions should no longer be problematic, for the Church has experienced them for some time, such as in Kerala,” the Pope wrote in a letter the Indian bishops...

Iraqi women visit monastery after its recapture from ISIS (CNA) Last week 300 women visited a historic monastery near Mosul after its liberation from the Islamic State — a decision their priest said was made in order to show they aren’t afraid, and that Christians in Iraq are there to stay. “We decided to go to San Behnam and Sara monastery because a lot of Christian people are afraid to go to this place, because it is sometimes dangerous,” The Rev. Roni Momika said on 6 October, after returning from the visit. He said the group wanted to go to the monastery “to pray and to tell the world that we are here and we will pray for peace, and we will pray for the soldiers, and we will pray for Christians in all the world...”

Jordan says hosting refugees has cost $10 billion (Arab News) Authorities in Jordan on Tuesday estimated at more than $10 billion the cost of hosting thousands of refugees displaced from Syria since the civil war broke out there in 2011. The UN says that some 650,000 Syrian refugees are currently being housed in Jordan, but the government puts the figure far higher at around 1.3 million people...

Pope Francis reaches a milestone: 40 million Twitter followers (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ Twitter account — @pontifex — has reached a milestone: 40 million followers in 9 languages. The figure is significant not only in itself, but in what it represents for the Holy Father, himself, who, like his predecessor, desires to be a Christian witness among many on the “Digital Continent,” especially through social media...



10 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Chaldean bishops met with Pope Francis at the Vatican last week. (photo: Asia News)

Chaldean bishops express ‘solidarity and pride’ (AsiaNews) In a “critical and difficult” time for Iraq, the Chaldean Church expresses “appreciation” for the role played by the armed forces in the fight against the “terrorists” of the Islamic State (ISIS) and renews its call to “dialogue” to overcome the “crisis” between Erbil and Baghdad following the referendum on independence. This is what the Chaldean patriarchate underlines in a statement published at the end of the Synod, which was held in Rome from October 4 to 8. In the text, the leaders of the Iraqi Church also expressed the “solidarity and pride” of the Christian community, which has been able to keep the “faith” alive...

A journey into the destroyed heart of the Islamic State capital, Raqqa (The Guardian) After months of brutal fighting, the battle to retake Raqqa, the self-declared capital of the Islamic State caliphate, is almost over. Scroll down to follow photographer Achilleas Zavallis and reporter Martin Chulov as they journey from the Iraqi border to the wasteland of the frontline of the ancient Syrian city where the few remaining Isis fighters are making their last stand...

Libyan authorities recover bodies of Copts beheaded in 2015 (AP) Libyan authorities have recovered the bodies of 21 Coptic Christian workers, mostly Egyptians, who in 2015 were beheaded on a beach in the coastal city of Sirte by Islamic State militants, according to a statement issued Saturday by a government-linked anti-ISIS group...

ISIS fighters surrender en masse (The New York Times) The prisoners were taken to a waiting room in groups of four, and were told to stand facing the concrete wall, their noses almost touching it, their hands bound behind their backs. More than a thousand prisoners determined to be Islamic State fighters passed through that room last week after they fled their crumbling Iraqi stronghold of Hawija. Instead of the martyrdom they had boasted was their only acceptable fate, they had voluntarily ended up here in the interrogation center of the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq...

Indian bishops denounce burning of flag, Hindu deity (UCANews.com) Indian Catholic bishops have denounced youths who burned the national flag and an image of a Hindu deity in Mizoram state, northeast India. “Those who have committed these acts cannot and should not profess to be Christians,” the Indian bishops’ conference said in a 6 October media release signed by secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas...



Tags: Iraq India ISIS Copts Chaldeans

6 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Iraqi civilians make their way through endangered areas filled with mines and bombs on 4 October, as the Iraqi army presses into the northern town of Hawija. On Thursday, Iraq’s prime minister announced the forces had driven ISIS out of the town. (photo: Andalou Agency/Getty Images)

Fighters linked to Al Quaida launch new attack in Syria (AP) Al-Qaida-linked fighters on Friday attacked a key central Syrian village at the crossroads between areas under government control and those controlled by insurgent groups, opposition activists said. In eastern Syria, meanwhile, 15 civilians, including children, were killed when a missile slammed into a government-held neighborhood in the city of Deir el-Zour on Thursday evening...

Iraq says it has taken one of the last ISIS strongholds (AP) Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Thursday that Iraqi forces have driven the Islamic State group from one of the extremists’ last strongholds in the country, the northern town of Hawija...

World Council of Churches plans to work for peace in Ethiopia border dispute (AfricanNews.com) The World Council of Churches (WCC) has said it will pray and work for peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia in an attempt to partake in the resolution of a longstanding border dispute. This was disclosed by a WCC delegation that visited the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church last month in what was labeled a historic visit by the body. It was the first time in over a decade that such a visit had been executed...

Indian president challenged on religious persecution (Premier.org) As the 14th EU-India summit starts, the religious freedom group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have asked EU leaders not to “turn a blind eye” to the oppression and torture in India of religious people. The situation for religious citizens has worsened under the current government. The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party has been accused of inciting hatred and riots against Christians and other faith groups and are the political arm of the nationalistic Hindutva (“Hinduness”) movement...

Putin takes aim at Russia’s abortion culture (Foreign Policy) Russia’s anti-abortion movement has gathered momentum in recent months, as activists — usually devout members of the influential Russian Orthodox Church — have started seizing on the country’s demographic crisis as an urgent reason for banning the practice...

In Gaza, Hamas levels an ancient treasure (AP) Palestinian and French archaeologists began excavating Gaza’s earliest archaeological site nearly 20 years ago, unearthing what they believe is a rare 4,500-year-old Bronze Age settlement. But over protests that grew recently, Gaza’s Hamas rulers have systematically destroyed the work since seizing power a decade ago, allowing the flattening of this hill on the southern tip of Gaza City to make way for construction projects, and later military bases. In its newest project, Hamas-supported bulldozers are flattening the last remnants of excavation...



5 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis embraces Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako during his audience with Chaldean bishops at the Vatican. (photo: Vatican Radio)

Pope urges Iraqi Chaldean bishops to build unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged leaders of the Chaldean Church to be builders of unity, favoring dialogue and collaboration between all actors of Iraqi society. The Pope was addressing bishops in Rome for the Synod of the Chaldeans, taking place from 4 to 8 October. The Chaldean Church is headed by Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, Archbishop of Baghdad...

Pope: ‘May the Lord protect Egypt, the Middle East and the world from terrorism’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday had a special greeting for an Egyptian delegation led by the country’s Tourism Minister, in Rome to promote a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt...

Iraqi Christians ‘in danger’ after referendum (Catholic Herald) Church leaders in northern Iraq have issued a stark warning that the crisis triggered by last week’s Kurdistan independence referendum could endanger the region’s Christian presence. Following the referendum, which could see the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) area seceding from northern Iraq, five senior Catholic and Orthodox bishops issued a statement appealing to the international community to protect Christians and help them stay in their ancestral lands, especially the Nineveh Plains...

Russian Orthodox Church sends letter to top U.S. diplomat regarding religious freedom (SputnikNews) Moscow Patriarchate has sent a letter to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with the regard to the recently published report of the State Department suggesting that religious minorities faced discrimination in Russia, the deputy chairman of the Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR) said...



4 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Father Tom Uzhunnalil, freed last month after over a year in captivity in Yemen, will receive the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice in Mumbai. (photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

Kidnapped Indian priest to get Mother Teresa award (Vatican Radio) Father Tom, recently freed after 18 months captivity in Yemen, has been named this year’s recipient of the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice by Harmony Foundation Mumbai. Abraham Mathai, founder of Harmony Foundation said Father Tom exemplifies the year’s theme “Compassion Beyond Borders — a compassionate response to the refugee crisis.” Father Tom he said continued to work at a place of great danger despite having had the chance to leave the country...

Kurdish referendum could imperil Christian safe haven in Iraq (National Catholic Register) The Kurdish referendum vote for independence from Iraq has raised the specter of all-out war that, Middle East Christian leaders and advocates warn, could land the final blow to the future of Christianity in its historic Mesopotamian homeland...

Russia says airstrips wounded Al Quaida leader in Syria (AP) Russia’s military announced on Wednesday that it has carried out airstrikes in Syria this week that critically wounded the leader of the country’s al-Qaida-linked group and killed 12 other militant commanders...

Archeologists believe they have discovered tomb of St. Nicholas (The Telegraph) Archaeologists in Turkey have made a discovery which could settle a century-old debate ... and disappoint millions of children around the world. They have unearthed what they say is likely the tomb of the original Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, beneath an ancient church in Demre, southern Turkey...

The town that gave Russia its name (BBC) One hundred years ago, revolution flung Russia from the imperialist era into the communist era — from centuries of tsars to red Soviet stars. In St Petersburg, extravagant palaces recall the lavish lifestyles of the Russian emperors, while in Moscow, austere skyscrapers are reminders of the stark existence under dictatorial rule. Even though it’s been a century since Russians found themselves at the crossroads between these two major phases of their nation’s history, many are still at odds with one another over which period — and which city — had the greatest impact on today’s Russian culture and sparked citizens’ profound patriotism...



3 October 2017
Greg Kandra




ISIS claims responsibility for deadly suicide attack in Syria (AP) The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a pair of suicide bombings in the Syrian capital that killed 17 civilians and policemen the previous day. In Monday’s bombings, two men attacked a police station in the al-Midan neighborhood with several bombs, before one of them blew himself up, according to Syria’s interior minister, Lt. Gen. Mohammad al-Shaar. He said the other bomber made it inside the compound, where police killed him, causing his bomb to explode...

Kurdistan plans elections next month (Reuters) Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region is calling presidential and parliamentary elections for 1 November, the Erbil-based Rudaw TV said on Tuesday, as the Kurdish leadership cements its case for independence...

Catholics mark Gandhi’s birthday in India (UCANews.com) Some 500 people — Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians — marched with lit candles through Bhopal in India on 2 October to mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the Indian nation, stressing his ideals of non-violence. Bhopal Archdiocese, based in the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, organized the march that culminated in an inter-religious prayer gathering. The event marked the 148th birth anniversary of Gandhi, who led India’s struggle for freedom from British rule while advocating non-violent methods. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal who addressed the prayer gathering said the program was part of the church’s efforts to promote “inter-religious harmony and peace” in the state...

Russian Orthodox church takes aim at film about Tsar’s affair (Hollywood Reporter) Hundreds of billboards affirming the tsar’s love for his empress have been welcomed by director of controversial film ‘Matilda.’ In the latest salvo in a dispute over a Russian film about the last tsar’s affair with a ballerina, the Russian Orthodox Church has put up 300 billboards in Moscow displaying what it called “words about love” exchanged between the tsar and his wife...



Tags: Iraq India Russian Orthodox ISIS

2 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis, prays that a young refugee he met in Greece has found someone willing to “share the journey” with him. A leading Vatican official on Monday declared that immigration and health care are pro-life issues.
(video: CNS/YouTube)


Archbishop: Immigration, health care are pro-life issues (CNS) Pro-life issues cannot be restricted solely to bioethical concerns but must encompass a broader definition that defends life in every aspect, said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Speaking to journalists at the Vatican press office on 2 October, Archbishop Paglia said that to be pro-life, Christians must “rethink the semantic value of the word, ‘life’ and not just in a reduced way...”

Coordinated bombing strikes Damascus (Al Jazeera) More than 10 people have been killed in an apparently coordinated bombing in Syria’s capital Damascus, according to several sources. A car bomb went off near a police station in Damascus’s al-Midan neighborhood on Monday, shortly before two suicide bombers detonated their explosive belts, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. The 11 dead included police officers and civilians, the SOHR said, adding that the attack also caused injuries...

Russian border guard killed in shootout near Ukraine border (Voice of America) Russia’s top domestic security agency says one Russian border guard has been killed in a shootout with two men who tried to cross into Ukraine. The FSB said in a statement Monday the two men on Saturday opened fire when the officer who approached them in a Russian village that borders northeast Ukraine. One of the men blew himself up and the other was detained. The border guard died of gunshot wounds...

Church of the Holy Sepulchre suffers roof collapse (Newsweek) Part of the of the roof of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre collapsed Friday as hundreds of worshipers visited the site. The church, one of the holiest locations in the Christian faith, had to be closed in the wake of the collapse while officials made sure it was safe for the congregation to return...

Palestinian prime minister visits Gaza (The Washington Post) The Palestinian prime minister arrived in the Gaza Strip on Monday for the first time in years as part of a new attempt to reconcile with the militant group Hamas after a decade-long split...



Tags: Syria Ukraine Refugees Jerusalem Russia

28 September 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Embed from Getty Images
A picture taken through a broken TV screen shows Palestinian children playing near their home on 27 September in Gaza City. (photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

Gaza power watch: How much electricity did Gaza get yesterday? (Haaretz) A severe electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip has left residents with as little as four hours of power a day in the sweltering summer heat, raising humanitarian concerns…

Interpol votes to accept ‘State of Palestine’ as member country (Haaretz) The Palestinians will join Interpol, the international police organization’s generally assembly voted on Wednesday, clearing the way for Palestine to become a member. Some 75 countries voted in favor, with 24 voting against and 34 abstaining. “The State of Palestine and the Solomon Islands are now INTERPOL member countries,” Interpol said on Twitter after the vote in Beijing…

Gaza’s fishermen struggle to keep afloat (Al Monitor) Fishing is not always a peaceful time at sea for Gaza’s fishermen, who follow in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers. They are allowed only to catch the fish in a small area close to the shore due to Israeli restrictions, and if they go beyond the permitted fishing zone they risk being shot at or losing their boats. Yet Palestinian fishermen still hold on to their trade, which has passed on to them for generations, fishing off the coast of the Gaza Strip and making their own fishing nets by hand…

Assyrian organization asks U.N. for support in northern Iraq (AINA) The Assyrian Universal Alliance, an umbrella organization for Assyrians worldwide, has sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Antonio Guterres, regarding the establishment of an Assyrian regional government in north Iraq, where the majority of Assyrians remain after being driven out of Iraq since 2004. The population of Assyrian has dwindled from 1.5 million in 2004 to 400,000 today, with most having emigrated to flee the violence from Muslim groups and their continued marginalization by Arabs and Kurds…

Desperate plea from Chaldean patriarch: ‘We cannot endure another war’ (Christian Today) Fears of a new military confrontation in Iraq are mounting among Christians, Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Luis Raphael I, has warned. Christians who are still reeling from the depredations of Islamic State across the Nineveh Plain now fear the Kurdish referendum will lead to a resurgence of violence…

In Ukraine, a huge ammunition depot catches fire (New York Times) One of the Ukrainian Army’s largest ammunition depots caught fire overnight after what was probably an act of sabotage using a drone, an official said on Wednesday, setting off gigantic explosions and forcing the evacuation of about 30,000 people…

Bibles and other church contents burned in Karnataka attack (Global Christian News) A church in the Chitradurga district of Karnataka was broken into and all the items inside the church set ablaze by some unidentified miscreants just before midnight of 17 September…



Tags: Iraq India Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank





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