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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
25 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, reflects on the impact the ceaseless cycle of wars is having on people in the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)

Suicide bombing near Muslim shrine in Syrian capital (CBS News) A suicide bombing near a Shiite Muslim shrine outside Syria’s capital city left at least 15 people dead and dozens more wounded Monday, Syrian officials told CBS News. Syrian State television said only that an explosion in Sayyida Zeinab, south of Damascus, had “killed and wounded some people,” without providing further information, but sources at the Ministry of Health told CBS News “at least 15 people were killed and more than 80 were admitted to nearby hospitals for immediate treatment in the aftermath of the bombing...”

Predominantly Christian city bombed by Islamist rebels (Fides) Islamist militias linked to Al Qaeda Jabhat al Nusra Front group launched an attack with mortars on the Syrian city of Sqelbiya, a predominantly Christian city, in the central province of Hama on Sunday, 24 April, killing at least four civilians...

Unemployment in Gaza reaches 60 percent (Middle East Monitor) Sixty per cent of the population of Gaza is unemployed, while 70 per cent live in poverty, QudsNet reported yesterday. Secretary-General of the General Federation of Palestine’s Trades Unions in Gaza (GFPTU), Sami Al-Amassi, said: “Palestinian workers ... live in accumulated suffering caused by the Israeli occupation which tightens the siege, closes crossings and bans the entry of raw materials...”

Copts celebrate Palm Sunday (Egypt Independent) Hundreds of Coptic Christians flocked to the churches of New Valley governorate on Sunday to celebrate Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, which will culminate in a week’s time with Easter Sunday. Many gathered in the Church of the Virgin Mary in Khariga Oasis, the largest church in the governorate, for a special mass marking the high day in the liturgical calendar...

Explaining the Mass to young people in India (Fides) The Jubilee of the 400th anniversary of the founding of St. Andrew’s Church in Bandra, in Mumbai, was the occasion for a special celebration dedicated to the young: it was a Holy Mass animated with theatrical dramatizations and music, as explained by Father Caesar D’Mello, the pastor of St. Andrew’s church. Furthermore, “the different moments of the Mass were explained in their deeper meaning, involving those present...”



22 April 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




In this photo from 2014, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople leads the Divine Liturgy at the Church of St. George in Istanbul, Turkey. (photo: Filippo Monteforte/Getty Images)

The Turkish State opens a case to recover the lands returned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in recent years (Fides) Turkey has opened a case against the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, to cancel the legal acts with which some land were returned to the Orthodox Patriarchal See...

The Patriarchs of Antioch remember the two Bishops kidnapped: “We do not have the support of the ‘giants.’ Our only hope is in the Lord” (Fides) “We shall continue to live in this East, ringing our bells, building our churches, and lifting up our Crosses...”

Karabakh: The Anguish of Conflict Lingers for Civilians (EurasiaNet) Now that the fighting has subsided in the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, civilians on the Armenian side are struggling to restore a sense of normalcy...

Babushkas of Chernobyl (Aljazeera) The defiant women who returned to the radioactive exclusion zone soon after the disaster share their tales of survival...

Cong. for Oriental Churches shows support for Pope’s Ukraine appeal (Vatican Radio) The Congregation for the Oriental Churches on Friday released a press statement, expressing support for the extraordinary collection to take place this Sunday in churches across Europe for the people suffering from the war in Ukraine...

Author Jurgen Todenhofer, who lived with IS for 10 days (BBC) Extremists belonging to so-called Islamic State have lost a number of towns and cities recently, including Palmyra. But does that mean that they are being beaten?...



21 April 2016
Greg Kandra




Italian navy personnel, left, approach a rubber dinghy filled with refugees in the Sicilian Channel in the Mediterranean Sea in March. There are new fears that hundreds are dead after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean on Monday. (photo: Italian Navy/Associated Press)

Hundreds of refugees feared dead in Mediterranean shipwreck (AP) As many as 500 people are feared dead after a shipwreck last week in the Mediterranean Sea, two international groups said Wednesday, describing survivors’ accounts of panicked passengers who desperately tried to stay afloat by jumping between vessels... The tragedy ranks among the deadliest in recent years on the often-treacherous sea voyage along the central Mediterranean by refugees and migrants from Africa, the Middle East and beyond who have traveled in droves hoping to reach relatively peaceful and wealthy Europe...

UN undertakes evacuation in Syria (Newsweek) A U.N.-backed humanitarian operation to evacuate hundreds of wounded people from four Syrian towns began on Wednesday, with the support of relief agencies. The Syrian Red Crescent in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross began to evacuate some 250 people from two Syrian towns — Zabadani and Madaya, near the Lebanese border — under siege by pro-government fighters...

Christian school workers demand reform of Palestinian social security system (Fides) Christian school workers participated in the demonstration in which thousands of Palestinians called for a new social security reform and expressed their disagreement with the decree law that currently governs the social security and pension system in Palestine. The sit-in, organized by different unions, was held yesterday in front of the council of ministers, in Ramallah. The protesters demand new representation in negotiations also for the 350 thousand workers in the private sector, and the establishment of a minimum unemployment benefit in favor of 400 thousand unemployed...

Dominican nuns in Iraq keep hope alive (CNS) When the Islamic State group rolled across Iraq’s Ninevah Plain in 2014, tens of thousands of Christians fled for their lives to Kurdish-controlled areas of the country. They still wait in limbo in crowded camps, facing an undefined future. The only certainty they enjoy is knowing that whatever happens to them, a group of Dominican nuns will be at their side. “We will not leave our people. Wherever they go, we will go with them,” said Sister Luma Khudher, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena...

Ukraine, Russia agree to prisoner exchange (Vatican Radio) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has agreed to a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure the release of Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko who is serving a 22-year jail sentence in Russia. The presidents of Russia and Ukrainia had a telephone conversation over the fate of jailed high-profile prisoners, raising the possibility of a swap. The call came after Ukraine jailed two alleged Russian special forces soldiers for several crimes including terrorism...

Latest attack on Christians in India confirms climate of fear (Crux) A second attack in two months on Pentecostal Christians in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, a fast-developing region known for electricity and steel, brings into sharp focus the insecurity facing the miniscule Christian minority in India, as well as the climate of impunity for radical Hindu groups menacing them...

Pope remembers victims of Chernobyl on 30th anniversary (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday prayed for the victims of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station disaster 30 years from the tragedy. Addressing the various groups of pilgrims of different nationalities present in St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience, the Pope had special greetings for those from Ukraine and Belarus...



20 April 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugee children stand outside their school in Zahle, Lebanon, in the country’s Bekaa Valley on 12 April. (photo: CNS/Dale Gavlak)

Russia reportedly moving artillery to northern Syria (The Wall Street Journal) Russia has been moving artillery units to areas of northern Syria where Assad government forces have been massing, raising U.S. concern that the two allies may be preparing for a return to full-scale fighting after a nearly two-month cease-fire with the main opposition, U.S. officials say...

Education, trauma counseling key to helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon (CNS) The 1.06 million Syrians who remain in neighboring Lebanon face continuing struggles with war trauma, dwindling funds, and a very uncertain and often dangerous future. “They have internalized the violence and loss in the conflict in Syria. Perhaps they saw loved ones killed, their houses destroyed in front of their eyes, or even being uprooted from their country has caused trauma,” Monette Kraitem, a Lebanese psychologist working the Catholic charitable agency Caritas, told Catholic News Service...

Pope issues appeal for Ukraine during weekly audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday again appealed for Ukraine, reminding those gathered in St Peter’s Square that for a long time the country’s population has been suffering the consequences of armed conflict, forgotten, he said, by many...

Israel to build new Gaza barrier within two years (The Times of Israel) A new barrier between the Gaza Strip and Israeli communities will be completed within the next two years, the IDF announced on Tuesday. The barrier, which was first proposed following 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, is designed to include both above ground and underground protections against infiltrations from the coastal enclave...

Why the “frozen” conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has gotten hot (The Los Angeles Times) For more than two decades, a little-noticed conflict in a remote, landlocked sliver of the former Soviet Union has resembled a chronic disease: Every time it appeared to be dormant, a relapse snapped it back to life...



19 April 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees Ramy and Suhila and their children, Khodus, Rashid and Abdul Mejid, relax in Rome on 18 April. The family were among 12 Syrian refugees Pope Francis brought to Rome with him from a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Syrian refugees thank pope for safety (CNS) After less than 48 hours in Rome, “dream” is the word used most often by the six Syrian adults Pope Francis brought back to Italy with him from a refugee camp in Greece. By 18 April, the couples — who asked to be identified by only their first names, Hasan and Nour, Ramy and Suhila, Osama and Wafa — and their six children had spent more than three hours doing paperwork with Italian immigration officials and had enrolled in Italian language classes...

UN agency praises pope’s solidarity with refugees (Vatican Radio) The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed the solidarity of Pope Francis with the world’s refugees and migrants when he visited them in the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday, and offered a home to three Syrian families bringing them along with him to Rome...

U.S. pledges more troops to Iraq (U.S. News & World Report) America’s drumbeat back to war in Iraq grew stronger Monday, with the announcement the White House has approved raising the number of U.S. troops deployed there to more than 4,000. The U.S. will also deploy attack helicopters, rocket-powered artillery and hundreds of millions of dollars more to support Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State group...

Demonstration remembers kidnapped bishops (Fides) Today, Tuesday, 19 April, militants of associations and Lebanese organizations find themselves in the municipal office of Sin el Fil, an eastern suburb of the Lebanese capital, to remember the story of the two Metropolitan Bishops of Aleppo — Syro Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Boulos Yazigi — of whom we have had no certain news since their kidnapping, which occurred on 22 April 2013...

Israel still struggling to bring back tourists after 2014 war (The Globes) The average hotel occupancy rate in March was 58 percent, according to a publication by the Israel Hotel Association. The Hotel Association compared the March 2016 figures with those from March 2015 and March 2014, four months before the beginning of the incoming tourism crisis caused by Operation Protective Edge. The figures show that while the crisis has eased slightly, in comparison with 2015, there are still Israeli cities in which hotel occupancy is 50 percent or less, including Jerusalem, Tiberias, Netanya, and Nazareth...



18 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew show solidarity with migrants and refugees during a meeting on the island of Lesbos on 16 April. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope visits Lesbos, returns to Rome with 12 Syrian refugees (CNS) Pope Francis’ five-hour visit to Greece ended with him offering safe passage to Italy to 12 Syrian Muslims, half under the age of 18. The Vatican had kept secret the pope’s plan to invite the members of three Syrian families to fly back to Rome with him on 16 April. Rumors began swirling in the Greek media a couple hours before the flight took off, but it was confirmed by the Vatican only as the 12 were boarding the papal plane...

Pope, Orthodox leaders listen to cries of refugees, urge help (CNS) Although their speeches were punctuated with policy appeals, Pope Francis and Orthodox leaders focused their visit to the island of Lesbos on the faces, stories and drawings of refugees. Pope Francis, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece spent more time 16 April greeting the refugees individually than they did giving speeches...

Pope, patriarch sign joint declaration on refugees (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis, along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, released a joint declaration during their visit to the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday. The three leaders signed the joint declaration at the end of their visit to the Moria refugee camp. The declaration calls on the international community to respond with generosity and compassion to the tragedy of forced migration, calling it a ‘crisis of humanity’...

Jordan calls ambassador from Iran (AP) Jordan says it is recalling its ambassador to Iran for consultations, suggesting the decision is linked to continued tensions between Tehran and Jordan ally Saudi Arabia. Government spokesman Mohammed Momani said on Monday that Jordan took the step because of what he described as Iranian interference in the “internal affairs of neighboring countries, especially Gulf countries...”

Israeli troops report uncovering tunnel leading from Gaza (BBC) Israel’s military says it has uncovered and “neutralised” a tunnel extending from the Gaza Strip several hundred metres inside Israeli territory. A statement said the tunnel had been constructed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas "in order to infiltrate Israel and execute terror attacks...”

Gripped by drought, Ethiopia drills for water (AFP) In the town of Wukro, surrounded by the rocky, arid mountains of the northern Tigray region, the government is investing longer-term efforts to ensure a supply of fresh water that will go far beyond the immediate needs of aid...

Christian, Muslim population growing in India (Indian Express) Christian and Muslim tribals remain one of the fastest growing demographic groups according to figures released by the Census department this week...



15 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, the Vatican offers more details about the pope’s upcoming humanitarian visit to Lesbos to meet with refugees. (video: Rome Reports)

Cost of rebuilding Syria could approach $180 billion (RT) Rebuilding war-ravaged Syria may be as much as $180 billion, according to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. “Once hostilities end, many Syrian refugees will unlikely return unless schools and health clinics are rebuilt,” said Kim at a news conference at the start of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank spring meetings, Thursday. Due to the plunge in oil prices, Kim expressed concern about who would fund the rebuilding of the basic Syrian infrastructure...

Vatican: Pope’s trip to Lesbos is humanitarian, not political (CNS) In a “humanitarian and ecumenical gesture,” not a political one, Pope Francis is to join Orthodox leaders in personally meeting with hundreds of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece, the Vatican spokesman said. Releasing the detailed schedule for the pope’s trip on 16 April to Lesbos, Greece, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope and the Orthodox leaders wanted to draw attention to “a situation in which many people are suffering” and where a “solution worthy of the human person” still must be found...

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem: Israel behaves as a theocratic state (Fides) Israel, “although it proclaims itself a secular and democratic state, it is really behaving more and more like a denominational Jewish military regime.” This is how the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, defined the current modus operandi of the Jewish state...

Chaldean Church establishes committee to monitor Christian property ownership (Fides) The Chaldean Patriarchate has announced the creation of an hoc committee to monitor sales and transfers of property ownership — houses and land — belonging to Christian citizens in Baghdad...

Peace activists call on church to update teaching (Vatican Radio) “We believe that there is no ‘just war.’ Those words are at the heart of a statement published on Thursday at the conclusion of an international conference looking at changes in church practice and teaching on non-violence and peacemaking. Organized jointly by the Catholic peace network, Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Justice and Peace Council, the three-day encounter brought together some 80 theologians and peace activists from conflict zones around the world...



14 April 2016
Greg Kandra




Young Syrians present their ID cards as they arrive to vote in a parliamentary election on 13 April at a polling station in the government-held side of the northern city of Aleppo. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)

More shelling in Aleppo mars peace talks (ABCNews) Syrian troops exchanged fire with rebels in the contested northern city of Aleppo on Thursday in a renewed bout of fighting that could further mar peace talks underway in Geneva. The fighting came a day after Syrians in government-held parts of the country voted for a new parliament…

Patriarch: Priests should not arrange exodus of Christians from Iraq (Fides) The church as such, and especially priests, should in no way be involved directly in operations and programs to plan and organize the exodus of Iraqi Christians to foreign countries, and anyone who continues to ignore such reprimand will take responsibility for his choices even in front of patriarchal authority. This is how the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans warned pastoral workers, and especially the patriarchal clergy, from getting involved directly in the organization of the expatriation of Iraqi Christians who continue to leave their country, following the migration routes that from the Middle East lead to Europe and America…

Israel allows taxis into Gaza for first time in nine years (Middle East Monitor) For the first time in nine years, the Israeli authorities have allowed the entry of taxis into the Gaza Strip, PalSawa.com reported on Wednesday. According to a statement issued by Fu’ad Homeid, chairman of the spare parts, vehicles and heavy equipment association, six out of 36 taxis entered into Gaza on Wednesday…

In Ethiopia, severe drought leaves millions relying on emergency aid (CBC) There is an eerie silence in the desert landscape of Ethiopia’s eastern rim, the lands stretching toward neighboring Somalia and the Gulf of Aden beyond it. It’s more of an absence, really, and it takes a while to put your finger on it. Then it hits. No livestock. If you do see them, they’re few and far between, their ribs sunken, just like the dry riverbeds snaking across the savannah. Ethiopia is currently in the grip of its worst drought in 50 years, and more than ten million people are relying on emergency food aid provided by the government and international aid agencies…

Ukraine’s parliament elects new government (The Washington Post) Following months of political gridlock over stalled reforms and accusations of corruption, Ukraine’s parliament approved Thursday a new government led by a close ally of President Petro Poroshenko…

Arrests in India in connection with fireworks blasts at Kerala temple (The New York Times) Thirteen people have been arrested in connection with the explosions that killed more than 100 during a fireworks display at a temple in southern India over the weekend, The Press Trust of India said on Tuesday. T. F. Xavier, a police superintendent for Kerala, the state where the disaster occurred, said seven of those arrested were officials at the Puttingal temple in the coastal district of Kollam, which hosted the fireworks display to celebrate the start of the new year on the Hindu calendar…



Tags: Syria India Iraq Ukraine Ethiopia

13 April 2016
Greg Kandra




The damaged St. Sarkis Church in Sadad, Syria, is seen in 2013. Hundreds of Christian families are returning to Sadad, more than two years after their city was overrun by terrorists, a local official said. (photo:CNS/EPA)

Christians returning to Syria (CNS) Hundreds of Christian families are returning to Sadad, Syria, more than two years after their city was overrun by terrorists, a local official has said. Suleiman al Khalil, the mayor of Sadad, told Russian media on April 6 of the influx of Christians returning to the city after Russian forces defeated the al Nusra Front, reported Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples...

Assad invites delegation from Russian Orthodox Church to visit Syria (Fides) Syrian President Bashar al Assad has invited a “high-level delegation” of the Russian Orthodox Church to visit Syria, at a time when the Syrian government army seems to have reversed the destiny of the conflict with militias jihadist rebels, returning to recover large areas of the country thanks to military support received from Moscow...

Syria holds parliamentary elections (The Washington Post) Even as Syrian peace talks were scheduled to resume Wednesday in Geneva, President Bashar al-Assad took a major jab at the process: voting in parliamentary elections denounced as a farce by the opposition...

Pope’s visit to Lesbos comes at time of fear for refugees (CNS) Pope Francis’ trip to Lesbos, Greece, on 16 April comes at a frightening and critical time for tens of thousands of refugees and migrants waiting and wondering where they will end up, said members of Catholic aid agencies. Maristella Tsamatropoulou, spokeswoman for Caritas Hellas, the Catholic charity in Greece, said when rumors started swirling that Pope Francis would join Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on a visit to refugees, “we believed it immediately because our Pope is spontaneous; he’s a force of nature...”

Indian leader calls for equal Dalit rights (UCANews.com) Christians and Muslims in India have welcomed comments by the head of an eastern state favoring quotas for Dalit religious minorities in government jobs and educational institutions, a right enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts. “The time has come to give quotas to low-caste Muslims and Christians who have long been deprived of this right because of their religious affiliations,” Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said...

Saddam Hussein’s palace to become a museum (The Telegraph) The large mansion in Basra, southern Iraq, will become the first museum to open in the war-torn country in several years after serving as a mess hall for the British army during the war, according to National Geographic. The British pulled out from Basra in September 2007...



12 April 2016
Greg Kandra




In Ethiopia’s Afar region, girls wait to fill containers at the local water pump. The UN says the humanitarian emergency in Ethiopia has worsened along with the drought. Read more on the crisis here. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

UN: Food emergency spreads as Ethiopian drought worsens (Bloomberg) The number of Ethiopian districts identified as suffering a humanitarian emergency increased 18 percent to 219 from December to March as the impact of drought worsened, the United Nations said...

Concern over safety of Syrian refugees (The Guardian) Setting up refugee “safe zones” on the Syrian side of the Turkey-Syria border and refusing to allow those fleeing the conflict to seek international protection could be a violation of international law and put vulnerable people at risk, human rights groups and aid workers have warned...

Alexandria court bans demolition of churches in Egypt (Albawaba.com) The Administrative Court of Alexandria has blocked the demolition of a church belonging to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, in the process issuing a ruling that prohibits the demolition of any church in Egypt. The move has been welcomed by members of the Coptic Christian community, who claim that Egyptian churches have been subject to “violations” for many years...

The fading of Gaza’s architectural heritage (AFP) A surprise awaits beyond a black door adorned with a silver lotus flower at the end of a tangle of alleyways in Gaza’s chaotic Old City. Through it and behind imposing stone walls sits a small, Levantine-style palace, some 430 years old and recently painstakingly restored. It is among the rare vestiges of Gaza City’s architectural heritage, battered by war, time, population pressure and simple indifference...







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