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Current Issue
March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
4 April 2018
Greg Kandra




A broken Marian statue is shown inside the grotto of Bihabandh Catholic Church in Odisha state after unidentified people attacked it on 1 April. (photo: provided by Rourkela Diocese)

Syrian regime claims last rebel group leaving Ghouta (CNN) Members of the last remaining and most powerful rebel group in the besieged Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus are leaving, according to Syrian state media. But an activist countered the government’s narrative, saying the evacuees were humanitarian cases — not all members of the group. Twenty buses carrying 1,065 Jaish al-Islam fighters and their families left Douma for Al-Wafideen Crossing on Monday. They headed to Jarablus in northern Syria, the Syrian Arab News Agency said...

Churches attacked in India’s Odisha state (UCANews.com) Vandals have destroyed two Marian statues and set fire to the sacristy and storeroom of a parish in Rourkela Diocese of India’s Odisha state. Sundergarh district administration has deployed armed police in the area because of the religious sensitivity of the two separate incidents on 1 April, said police inspector Bijay Kumar Singh...

Lebanon unemployment at alarming levels due to refugees, weak economy (Albawaba.com) President Michel Aoun said Thursday that the grave economic situation, presence of Syrian refugees and the reluctance of Lebanese to take low-paid jobs has caused unemployment to soar to 46 percent. Aoun made the remarks during a meeting with a delegation from the Lebanese Press Syndicate at Baabda’s presidential palace...

Jordan helping refugee children overcome trauma through football (The Jordan Times) HRH Prince Ali has highlighted Jordan’s efforts to heal traumatized Syrian refugee children through football. In a recent interview with CNN, conducted by Becky Anderson, a British journalist and anchor at CNN, Prince Ali explained that football is not only a sport, but a universal language in itself. Anderson visited the Zaatari refugee camp, during the Laureates and Leaders For Children summit, where she spoke to Prince Ali about how football is helping some children deal with the trauma of Syria’s civil war...

Indian government withdraws rules to punish journalists for ‘fake news’ (Vatican News) The round-about turn from Narendra Modi’s government came following an outcry from journalists and opposition politicians who said the measure was to stifle press freedom, especially in the run-up to next year’s general elections. Late Monday, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had announced the government would withdraw its accreditation to journalists who peddled “fake news.” The withdrawal of accreditation would be either for a limited time or permanently, depending on the frequency of infringements...

Easter message of Christian leaders in Jerusalem (Vatican News) Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem have issued an Easter message offering their prayers for those suffering across the world for various reasons, that they may find hope, peace and life in the Cross of Christ. Thirteen patriarchs and heads of various Christian denominations in Jerusalem released a joint message on Friday, as violence erupted between Palestinians and Israeli security forces along the Israeli-Gaza border...

800 Copts travel to Jerusalem for Easter (Egypt Today) Five Air Sinai flights carrying 800 Coptic pilgrims headed to Jerusalem on Monday to celebrate Easter, officials from the Cairo International Airport told Egypt Today on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Egypt has built an air bridge to transport elder Coptic Christians, who are allowed to perform pilgrimage in Jerusalem during the Holy Week, the week before Easter...



3 April 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets the crowd during his Easter message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 1 April.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)


Netanyahu cancels plan to resettle African asylum seekers (Haaretz) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that Israel is cancelling a deal with the United Nations on the resettling of African asylum seekers. The deal was annnounced by Netanyahu himself on Monday afternoon. The deal was set to stop the forced deportation to Africa from Israel of asylum seekers, resettle 16,000 of them in Israel and the same number in Western countries. Netanyahu hours later decided to suspend the deal, even though he has already signed it, following pressure from within his party and from coalition members...

Iraq vows to secure Sinjar border region (Vatican News) The Iraqi prime minister said that any attempt by ‘foreign fighters’ to launch cross-border attacks on Turkey will be prevented by the Iraqi military. Haider Al Abadi told Turkish officials he had ordered the army to establish full control of the national frontier, especially near Sinjar — a region of Iraq which borders Turkey...

Christians in Iraq celebrate Easter (The Jerusalem Post) Thousands of Christians celebrated the Assyrian New Year in northern Iraq over the last several days. The celebrations coincided with Easter and brought together groups of Assyrian Christian activists who are seeking to rekindle the flame of their community from the ravages of ISIS. The Easter Mass at the Saint Mary’s Assyrian Church of the East was attended by hundreds of worshipers on March 31, the same day on which Juliana Taimoorazy, the founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council and co-founder of a project called “Rise Nineveh,” led members of her group to Mosul to stand on the ruins of Nineveh...

War in Syria: Stories of survival and hope (National Geographic) “War arrives suddenly, uninvited, and brings with it a new normal,” writes Rania Abouzeid in No Turning Back, her poignant account of the Syrian conflict. Following the lives of a group of people from rebel-held areas over a period of five years, she brings home to us what television coverage rarely can: the human dimension of one of the most violent and complicated conflicts since World War II...

Pope’s Easter appeals include prayers for Syria, Gaza (CNS) In his Easter appeal for peace throughout the world, Pope Francis made special mention of the ongoing “carnage” in Syria and the recent violence along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, violence the Pope said had not spared “the defenseless...”

Pope’s Urbi et Orbi message: ‘The last word is the resurrection’ (Vatican News) Beginning his customary “Urbi et Orbi” message, Pope Francis greeted the faithful with “Jesus is risen from the dead!” He then said that Jesus used of the image of the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies to prophesy his own death and resurrection...



29 March 2018
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, washes the feet of a clergyman on Holy Thursday 29 March in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. The ritual reflects the call to imitate Christ by serving one another. (photo: CNS/Corinna Kern, Reuters)

Easter in Jerusalem: No access for Gaza’s Christians (Al Jazeera) Israel has not issued permits for Gaza Palestinian Christians to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, church authorities have said. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said church authorities had applied for around 600 permits for Gaza Palestinian worshipers to travel, but had not received any…

Jews in Israel prepare for Passover (The Jerusalem Post) Jews in Israel on Thursday are making last-minute preparations for the Jewish holiday of Passover, due to begin Friday at sunset. In ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem residents burn all remnants of leavened food they have in their house, before the start of the holiday…

Lebanon is drowning in its own waste (BBC) This beach has already been cleaned up 16 times, and had been cleaned less than a week before I stepped onto it with Joslin Kehdy, the founder of Recycle Lebanon, which arranges the cleanups. Plastic is turning up on beaches around the world, but the difference in Lebanon is that rubbish is also being directly dumped into the sea and coastal landfills — spelling disaster for the shoreline’s ecosystem and public health…

Thousands evacuate Eastern Ghouta in Syria (NPR) Let’s turn now to Syria and to the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, where thousands of people are bidding goodbye to their homes and boarding buses to leave, maybe for good — a part of a deal with the government to end the rebel presence in the area…

Turkey’s churches publish landmark book of common Christian doctrine (Sight Magazine) A joint commission of Turkey’s major Christian denominations has published an historic book of concise Christian doctrine, receiving the unprecedented endorsement of all the nation’s Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Syriac and Protestant churches. According to Armenian Bishop Sahak Masalyan, keynote speaker at the formal book launch in Istanbul of the English edition on 3 February, the “most spectacular aspect” of the book is in fact its first page of endorsements, which he declared “akin to a miracle.” “[This book] expresses the shared beliefs of the churches in Turkey. We approve its publication and recommend that it be widely read,” the statement says…



Tags: Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Holy Land Christians

28 March 2018
Greg Kandra




The video above shows some of the damage of Eastern Ghouta in Syria. (video: YouTube)

Troops mass around rebel town in East Ghouta, Syria (BBC) Syrian government forces have massed around the last rebel-held town in the Eastern Ghouta area, after rebels were reportedly given a deadline to leave. A newspaper said troops were preparing for a “huge” operation in Douma, which is controlled by Jaysh al-Islam...

Syrian Christians feel like strangers in their own country (The Tablet) Poor living conditions, security problems and economic insecurity, have left Syrians &dlquo;feeling like strangers in their own country,” Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Selwanos Petros Al-Nemeh of Homs said this week...

Kerala closer to getting another saint (UCANews.com) The canonization process of Sister Mariyam Thressia, the founder of the Holy Family congregation of nuns in Kerala, is a step closer now. An expert team in Vatican has approved a miracle, the survival of a child born with acute respiratory failure, attributed to her intercession...

Israel approves plan to open new U.S. embassy in May (Haaretz) Acting at the request of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the National Planning and Building Council exempted the U.S. government from permitting requirements to enable the relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May. That will allow work to proceed on a building in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood that now houses a U.S. consular section and will be repurposed as a temporary embassy...

Religious sisters in Indian slum work for human dignity (UCANews.com) The nuns of Devapriaya (beloveds of God) Sisters, a local congregation founded by former Bishop Gregory Karotemprel of Rajokot, aims to help poor women have a greater awareness of their rights and offers training and advice on how to earn an income...



27 March 2018
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees wait outside their shelters in late January at Zaatari camp near Mafraq, Jordan. The U.S. has a responsibility to help Jordan and stop the war in Syria, human rights advocate Kerry Kennedy said in meeting with Nobel laureates. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Syrian refugees welcomed to Rome (Vatican News) “Welcome” and “Peace” were the words with which a group of children and adolescents and their families from the war-torn city of Homs in Syria were greeted on Tuesday morning as they arrived in Rome. They were also offered a Palm Sunday olive branch and an Italian language tuition book by members of the Sant’Egidio Community who met them at the airport...

Egyptians vote in presidential election (Vatican News) The incumbent President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi faces only nominal opposition as his only challenger Moussa Mostafa Moussa has been dubbed a ‘dummy candidate’ because of his known support for al-Sisi — it is an accusation he rejects. Although al-Sisi is almost certain to win, critics charge him with overseeing a huge austerity drive, suppression of dissent and cracking down on free media...

U.S., world urged to help Jordan aid refugees (CNS) The United States has a responsibility to help Jordan as it struggles to support hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and must actively seek to end Syria’s long civil war, American human rights advocate Kerry Kennedy told a conference on forced migration. “Stop the violence that creates the refugee crisis,” Kennedy said 24 March to an audience that included Nobel laureates, global leaders and children concerned about child trafficking, trauma and abuse stemming from the violence. “We have not done what we should to stop that violence and we can do that more all over the world...”

Cardinal Tagle to wash feet of migrants, refugees on Holy Thursday (Vatican News) Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila will wash the feet of migrants and refugees during this week’s Holy Thursday evening liturgy that commemorates Christ’s washing of the feet of His disciples. Cardinal Tagle, who is also President of Caritas Internationalis, the Church’s worldwide humanitarian confederation, recently released an Easter message urging men and women of goodwill worldwide to join the Caritas “Share the Journey” campaign that aims to reach out to migrants, tackle prejudice by changing perceptions and help people open their hearts and their minds...



26 March 2018
Greg Kandra




Christians carry palm branches on 25 March while walking the traditional path that Jesus took on his last entry into Jerusalem during the Palm Sunday Procession on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)


For Syrian refugees, unlawful marriages lead to statelessness in Lebanon (Voice of America) Marriage is a time of new beginnings. But for a growing number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, marriage has become a trap. Many of the Syrians have little money and are unfamiliar with Lebanese laws. They are often restricted in their ability to find someone to perform the marriage. So, growing numbers of refugees are getting married illegally...

‘Why we’re paying the rent for a million Syrian refugees’ (The Guardian) Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country, including 3.7 million Syrians. The EU-funded cash assistance program is designed to help a nation that is creaking under the strain. But Europe’s largest humanitarian aid effort to date did not come without strings attached...

Greece warns Turkey over aggression (Vatican News) Greece today stepped up its rhetoric against Turkish expansionist aims in the Aegean, with the defense minister saying any Turkish attempt to impinge on Greek national territory would be crushed...

Christians in Israel mark Palm Sunday (Breaking Israel News.com) Christians around the country began Holy Week leading up to Easter with traditional Palm Sunday processions and Church services in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and other Christian communities...

Palm Sunday observed across Kerala (New Indian Express) Palm Sunday was observed by Christians across Kerala to commemorate Jesus Christ’s entry into Jerusalem before he was arrested and crucified. Churches were crowded on Sunday and at many places traffic was stopped as devotees with fresh cut palm leaves in hands took to the streets to commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, when palm branches were placed in his path...



23 March 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
In this image from last year, Pope Tawadros II (L) meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) in Cairo, Egypt. Many Copts say they will support President al-Sisi in next week’s election.
(photo: Presidency of Egypt/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


‘Dozens burned to death’ in strikes on East Ghouta (Al Jazeera) At least 37 people, mostly women and children, have been killed and 80 others injured after regime forces bombed an underground shelter in Eastern Ghouta, according to rescuers and activists on the ground. Sources on the ground and rescuers from the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer rescue group also known as the White Helmets, said on Friday that the victims were burned to death after air strikes carrying napalm gas hit the shelter in the town of Arbeen...

Can Pope Francis keep the door open for refugees? (CNN) The Syrian war was just two years old when Pope Francis took power. Europe was feeling the crush of asylum seekers from Syria and North African migrants, an influx that reshaped communities from Spain to Sweden, spreading a fever of anti-immigrant rage in its wake...

Ahead of Egypt vote, Christians put faith in Sisi (AFP) On the streets of Cairo’s Shubra district, many Coptic Christians — but not all — say they will support President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in his re-election bid on Monday. Pro-Sisi banners hang overhead in the neighborhood where many Copts reside, often showing the president standing alongside Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II...

Indian cow vigilantes get life for lynching (UCANews.com) An Indian court has jailed 11 people for life for lynching a Muslim man suspected of possessing beef in a landmark case that church leaders say will help to check increasing violence against religious minorities. It is the first time a court has punished perpetrators of cow-related violence in the country, according to Persecution Relief director Shibu Thomas...

Holy Synod of Russian Orthodox Church to convene in Belarus in October (Belarus News) The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church plans to hold a session in Belarus in October 2018, Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavl, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus Pavel told journalists on 20 March...

Photos: Passover celebrations underway in Ethiopia (The Jerusalem Post) Approximately 4,000 members of the Jewish community are expected to attend the Seder in Gondar, Ethiopia...



22 March 2018
Greg Kandra




In this photo from last October, Pope Francis clasps hands with a person at the “Regional Hub,” a government-run processing center for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, in Bologna, Italy. The pope is seen wearing a yellow ID bracelet with his name and a number, just like the immigrants and refugees at the center. The Holy See this week declared that migration efforts must respect the human person. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

Holy See says migration efforts must put the person at the center (Vatican News) “Refugees are not numbers to be distributed and allocated, but persons with a name, a story, with hopes and aspirations.” These were the words with which the Vatican Observer to the United Nations in Geneva reminded UN members to always put the dignity of the person at the center of their work...

Jerusalem on high alert ahead of holidays (Ynetnews.com) In Jerusalem, this heightened level of alert is manifested in the increased deployment of Border Police and police forces in the Old City, where many Israelis as well as tourists will spend some of the upcoming Passover holiday. “The defense establishment realizes that the cluster of events we are facing may be highly combustible. We’re on the precipice of Passover, two memorial days and Independence Day, but before we even get there we’re facing Land Day at the end of this month,” said a senior police source...

Rebels leave defeated Syrian town (BBC) Syrian rebels and their families are to be evacuated from a key town in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region as part of an agreement with the government. State media said 1,760 people had left Harasta, but a BBC Arabic correspondent said he had seen no buses depart yet...

Russian Catholic leaders pledge to work with Putin (CNS) Russia’s minority Catholic Church has pledged to help build a civil society after the nation’s 18 March election and called on President Vladimir Putin to “justify voters’ confidence” after his victory...

Kerala churches upset over new liquor policy (The Business Standard) The Syrian Mar Thoma Church and the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church on Thursday lashed out at the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala for deciding to open closed liquor vends. The Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Conference (KCBC) had also slammed the "liquor policy" of the Vijayan government...

On World Water Day, recalling how Pope Francis has made care of the world’s water a priority (Vatican News) Pope Francis has already made it clear that the availability and care of the world’s water sources must be a global priority. In his encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home), the word “water” appears 47 times—22 occurrences within articles 27-30 which treat the subject of water specifically...

Rare, endangered primate born in Jerusalem zoo (The Times of Israel) An Israeli zoo said Thursday that an endangered primate known as a golden lion tamarin has been born in captivity. The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo said the monkey was born two weeks ago to mom Bilbi and dad Zohar. The yet unnamed monkey was seen Thursday clinging to its mother’s back...



21 March 2018
Greg Kandra




Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Cardinal Oswald Gracias in New Delhi on 20 March. (photo: UCANews.com)

Bodies of 39 kidnapped Indian workers found in mass grave in Iraq (NPR) The AP said the bodies were found under a dirt mound after Iraqi authorities found evidence of the grave last summer using radar equipment. Once the bodies were exhumed, Indian authorities sent DNA samples from relatives of the missing workers. All but one have been identified. Among the artifacts discovered at the site were ID cards, non-Iraqi shoes and religious bracelets...

Modi holds off on inviting Pope Francis to India (UCANews.com) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to be non-committal on inviting Pope Francis to the country despite requests from church leaders as sporadic violence and intimidation against Christians continue across India. Less than a year after the Vatican gave up in frustration on a planned visit by the pontiff to the world’s second most populous country in 2018, turning instead toward strife-torn Myanmar and Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Cardinal Oswald Gracias failed to get agreement for a papal tour from the leader of the Hindu-centric Bharatiya Janata Party in a rare meeting with Modi on 20 March...

Israel confirms it struck Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 (AP) The Israeli military confirmed Wednesday it carried out the 2007 airstrike in Syria that destroyed what was believed to be a nuclear reactor, lifting the veil of secrecy over one of its most daring and mysterious operations in recent memory. Although Israel was widely believed to have been behind the 6 September 2007 airstrike, it has never before commented publicly on it...

‘Why I stay in Gaza’ (The New York Times) When so many basic things are so fundamentally beyond your control, you sometimes do feel like giving up, saying goodbye to both country and past, and letting Palestine go. The problem is, Palestine won’t let you go...

Praying with paint: Iconography as a conversation with God (Catholic Register) Eleven women gathered at the Sheptytsky Institute on the campus of Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College late in February to deepen their love of God over the course of a week spent painting a single, small icon of Christ or of Mary. Under the instruction of master iconographer and art restorer Roumen Kirinkov, these women learned to mix dry pigments and yolk emulsions, apply glazes, stretch canvas, mix and apply gesso, handle gold leaf, mix colours, choose and handle brushes. But first they prayed...



20 March 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Syrian civil defense volunteers search for victims following Syrian government air strikes on the Eastern Ghouta rebel-held enclave of Douma, on 20 March 2018. An air strike has reportedly killed more than a dozen children sheltered in an underground school in the region.
(photo: Hamza Al-Ajweh/AFP/Getty Images)


Syria: air strike kills children at school (BBC) An air strike has reportedly killed 15 children and two women sheltering in an underground school in Syria’s besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region. Rescuers said civilians had been hiding in the school to escape government and Russian raids on the town of Arbin...

Archbishop: young Christians and Muslims are engine to rebuild Iraq (Herald Malaysia) Rebuilding Iraq, after years of wars, extremism, divisions and violence culminating in the rise of the Islamic State, which is down but not yet out, must be based “on the young, who are the basis on which to build the future,” said Mgr. Yousif Thoma Mirkis, archbishop of Kirkuk, northern Iraq. The prelate recently met with a group of students from the University of Mosul who were lodged in his diocese when ISIS controlled the city...

Cardinal invites Christians to ‘Share the Journey’ with migrants this Easter (Vatican News) The President of Caritas Internationalis, the Church’s worldwide humanitarian confederation, has released an Easter message urging men and women of goodwill to join the Caritas “Share the Journey” campaign that aims to reaches out to migrants, tackle prejudice by changing perceptions and help people open their hearts and their minds...

Isaiah the prophet: the archaeological evidence (Haaretz) A 2,700-year-old seal impression on clay unearthed in Jerusalem this February piqued enormous interest, after its finder, the leading Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, said it may have been the personal seal of Isaiah the Prophet himself. Biblical scholars have been quarreling ever since...

Indian Jesuits release book to mark pope’s five years (UCANews.com) Marking Pope Francis' five years in office, two Indian Jesuits have compiled a book collecting reflections of more than 50 church leaders on how they have applied the Jesuit pope’s insights in their own lives. Jesuit Fathers Kuruvilla Pandikattu and Father Vadappur Jose, both professors at the Jesuit-run Papal Seminary in Pune city in western India, edited the book, Francis Effect...







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