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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
27 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A rose is thrown towards the popemobile as Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass at Manger Square in Bethlehem, West Bank, on 25 May. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis sparks ecumenical and interfaith hope in the Holy Land (Vatican Radio) As Pope Francis’ three-day journey to the Holy Land — with stops in Jordan, Palestine and Israel — comes to an end. Philippa Hitchen brings us an overall picture of this visit in which she focuses on ecumenical and interfaith hope…

Ukraine and pro-Russian forces fight air battle in Donetsk (Christian Science Monitor) Ukrainian government warplanes carried out airstrikes against pro-Russian rebels who seized Donetsk international airport on Monday as both sides mounted an aggressive show of force following the election of a new Ukrainian president…

Egypt declares national holiday to encourage voter turnout (The Guardian) Egypt has declared a national holiday, in an apparent effort to encourage a higher turnout in the second and final day of its ongoing presidential election. Ex-army chief Abdel Fatah al Sisi is expected to easily win Tuesday’s election but he and his supporters are seeking a respectable turnout to prove he has the country’s overwhelming support…

Indian Church calls on Modi aid the poor and marginalized (AsiaNews) “The church in India is hopeful that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will collaborate with the mission of the Catholic Church to promote and work for social and economic justice as well as individual liberty and fundamental rights,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India…

Syria: U.N. condemns attack on warehouse during aid distribution (U.N. News Center) The United Nations humanitarian chief today expressed outrage at a deliberate attack on a humanitarian warehouse in the Damascus province of Syria, which occurred as aid workers were preparing to distribute urgently needed supplies to hundreds of families in the besieged city…

Cave presumably containing tomb of Queen Tamar found (Pravoslavie) Following a landslide, road workers in Ingushetia have discovered an ancient cave that may contain the tomb of the Georgian Queen Tamar, reported Umalat Gadiev, deputy director of Krupnov Archaeological Center. Holy Queen Tamar of Georgia’s late 12th-century reign was considered a “golden age” of Georgian culture, and she is considered one of the most venerated rulers of Georgia…



Tags: India Egypt Pope Francis Ukraine United Nations

23 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




The Church of Nativity in Bethlehem — traditionally considered to be built on the site of Jesus Christ’s birth — is getting its first restoration in centuries. Master craftsmen are replacing the basilica’s ancient wood with slightly less ancient wood from other buildings. (video: Washington Post)

Pope Francis to lunch with poor Christian families in Bethlehem (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will have lunch with local Christian families after celebrating holy Mass at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity this Sunday. The pope will visit the town of Jesus’ birth on the second day of his May 24-26 journey to the Holy Land. In an interview published on the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s website, Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali says the pope wanted to share his lunchtime meal with poor families…

Pope to hear from Syria’s refugees in Jordan (Deccan Chronicle) Pope Francis will hear first-hand accounts of the horrors of Syria’s war when he meets refugees in Jordan Saturday as he begins a three-day visit to the Holy Land. The pope will meet Christians and Muslims forced to leave their homes and flee to the neighboring desert kingdom, now home to more than 600,000 refugees and the first stop on Francis’ trip ahead of Israel and the Palestinian territories…

Lebanese patriarch joins Pope Francis in Israel, stirring controversy (Christian Science Monitor) When Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter heads to Israel tomorrow to participate in a papal visit to the Holy Land, he will become the first patriarch of the Maronite Church to visit the Jewish state — a move that has stirred intense controversy. Lebanon technically is in a state of war with Israel and it is against the law for Lebanese citizens to visit its neighbor or even have contact with its citizens. Patriarch Bechara Peter, who is also a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, says he has a duty to accompany Pope Francis in the Holy Land and that his visit is pastoral and will emphasize the Arab character of Jerusalem…

Struggle for rights at Cenacle shows issues with Jerusalem’s holy sites (CNS) The attention drawn to the Cenacle by extremist Jewish groups has put a damper on the hopes for negotiations over the site, said Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land. “After all this commotion we have to calm down a little and to start now clarifying [our position],” Father Pizzaballa told journalists before the opening of a 20 May conference. “The point is we have the right to pray without infringing upon the rights of others…”

Syria can reform, says Melkite patriarch (Church Times) The crisis in Syria is the result of “murderous mercenaries” who are intent on destroying a peaceful nation on the road to reform, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III said, speaking in London on Tuesday. The patriarch described the centuries-long peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims, including his own personal experience of growing up in Syria: his mother breastfed him together with a Muslim “milk-brother…”



Tags: Pope Francis Holy Land Jerusalem Israeli-Palestinian conflict Bethlehem

22 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Muslim family, currently headed by Adeeb Jawad Joudeh, has been entrusted with the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem for almost 1,000 years. (video: Al Jazeera)

The 1,000-year-old schism Pope Francis seeks to heal (NPR) Pope Francis travels this weekend to the Middle East, the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, and will meet with Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders. But the official purpose of the visit is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic rapprochement between Catholics and Orthodox and to try to restore Christian unity after nearly 1,000 years of estrangement. Meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras set a milestone: They started the process of healing the schism between Eastern and Western Christianity of the year 1054…

Seeking balance on Middle East visit, pope pleases few (New York Times) Pope Francis plans to give a strong show of support for a sovereign Palestinian state when he makes his first visit to the Holy Land this weekend, becoming the first pontiff to travel directly into the occupied West Bank rather than passing through Israel. The pope’s decision to fly straight to Bethlehem from Jordan would be a symbolic lift to the Palestinians at any time. But its resonance is even greater given his tremendous popularity, his focus on the downtrodden, and his timing amid the recent collapse of peace talks and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s unity pact with the militant group Hamas. But in this region, any gesture can be viewed through different lenses. “We’re not very happy about it, but it’s a fact,” Oded Ben Hur, a former Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, said of the pope’s direct flight to Bethlehem from Amman, Jordan. “We wanted them to play it down, but we can understand the complaints…”

Legacy of Hamas-Fatah killings complicates Palestinian unity efforts (New York Times) The bloody six-day battle for control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 left 260 Fatah activists and 176 from Hamas dead. Following the signing of a 23 April pact, a committee is now charged with persuading their families to accept compensation — and raise the funds to pay it — rather than pursue the death penalty as outlined in Islamic law. This so-called social reconciliation is one of the complicated issues yet to be addressed, as President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority prepares to announce the promised new government as early as this week…

Ukraine crisis: Donetsk sees deadliest attack on troops (BBC) A dawn attack on a checkpoint in eastern Ukraine has left at least 14 soldiers dead, in the worst loss of life for government forces to date. Heavily armed militants attacked the checkpoint in the Volnovakha area, in one of four attacks reported overnight in eastern Ukraine…

U.N. official cites ‘worsening’ human rights situation in southern, eastern Ukraine (U.N. News Center) The southern and eastern regions of crisis-racked Ukraine are now awash in weapons and the scene of numerous cases of illegal detentions and abductions, a senior United Nations human rights official warned today, noting that he had discussed with the parties some rights-based and humanitarian de-escalation measures…

Solving the problem of avoidable blindness afflicting many Ethiopians (Fides) Trachoma is one of the most common visual disorders in Africa and, if not treated timely, leads to permanent blindness. Ethiopia is one of the African countries with the highest incidence of people with eye diseases. Out of a population of 75 million people, nearly 1 million Ethiopians are affected by blindness and 4 million are visually impaired…

During Syrian siege, siblings improvised survival (Los Angeles Times) Tales of survival are beginning to rise from Homs’ rubble in the aftermath of a deal that allowed about 2,000 remaining rebels to evacuate the Old City this month, and also opened the way for civilians to return. Longtime residents who fled have been streaming back, stunned by the scope of destruction and anguished by the damage to their homes, but relieved that they are no longer shut out…



Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Holy Land United Nations Christian Unity

21 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




As the Holy Land prepares for the visit of Pope Francis, hate crimes leave Christians feeling vulnerable. (video: Al Jazeera)

Pope picks one of dueling baptism sites in visit to Holy Land (Washington Post) Christians believe that Jesus was immersed in the waters of the Jordan River by John the Baptist, who wore a cloak of camel’s hair and lived on locusts and honey in the desert wilderness. But the Gospels are not precise about which side of the river the baptism took place on — the east bank or the west. Although it might not matter much to a half-million annual visitors who come to the river for sightseeing or a renewal of faith, it matters very much to tourism officials in Israel and Jordan, who maintain dueling baptism sites, one smack-dab across from the other, with the shallow, narrow, muddy stream serving as international boundary. On Saturday, on his first papal trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis will visit the baptism site at Bethany Beyond the Jordan — on the eastern, or Jordanian, side of the river…

Pope Francis prays for flood victims in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia (VIS) At the end of today’s general audience, the pope launched an appeal on behalf of those citizens who have lost their lives, for the many still missing and for those affected by the great damage caused by the serious floods which have occurred during recent days in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. “Unfortunately the situation has worsened, and I therefore invite you all to join me in prayer for the victims and for all those afflicted by this disaster. May the solidarity and concrete support of the international community be forthcoming…”

Syrians return to rebuild lives in Homs’ war-ravaged Old City (Los Angeles Times) Wary of looters and anxious to get back home, the displaced residents of the war-battered Old City have been filing back into their bombed-out neighborhoods. They push baby strollers and drag suitcases to be used in an ongoing salvage operation. At times, it is hard to distinguish between ex-residents gathering what little is left of their belongings and those picking the ruins clean of others’ possessions…

Syrian refugees in Lebanon face health care crisis (BBC) Amnesty International says a shortfall in international support has left many Syrian refugees in Lebanon unable to access crucial medical care. A new report says some refugees have resorted to returning to Syria to receive the treatment they need. The U.N. says there are now 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees and the number is still rising…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Holy Land Christians Serbia

20 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2012 image, people gather at a mass burial for victims of an artillery barrage from Syrian forces in Houla, Syria. (photo: CNS/Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)

Nearly 60 states back referral of Syria conflict to International Criminal Court (BBC) Nearly 60 countries led by Switzerland have expressed support for a proposal to refer the conflict in Syria to the International Criminal Court. They are calling on the I.C.C. to investigate possible crimes against humanity and war crimes…

Some 10,000 people in Ukraine now affected by displacement, U.N. says (U.N. News Center) The United Nations refugee agency estimated today that 10,000 people, most ethnic Tatars, but also Ukrainians, Russians and mixed families, have fled Crimea and restive eastern Ukraine to other parts of the country, out of fear of insecurity or persecution…

Religious tensions deepen Ukraine splits (Reuters) Religious tensions are deepening dividing lines in Ukraine’s crisis, with rival churches taking political sides and Kiev slighting the Russian Orthodox Church, a senior official of the Moscow-based church said on Friday. Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian church’s foreign relations department, said other churches had clearly lined up behind the Kiev government and he cited religious differences for its decision to refuse him entry to Ukraine last week…

Fears grow over Bulgaria’s Russian dependence (Der Spiegel) Concerns are growing within the German government that the European Union’s most impoverished member state, Bulgaria, could fall into the grips of Moscow’s influence. Internal reports, including those of the German foreign intelligence service, warn that Moscow may seek to expand its relations with the country in order to use Bulgaria as a political beachhead into the E.U., and then use that power to divide the block…

Pastoral visit to a detention facility in the Negev desert (Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel) Holot is an open detention facility in the Negev for Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers who have arrived in Israel. On Thursday, 15 May 2014, the Latin Patriarchate sent a group of thirteen priests and sisters — including the Latin patriarchal vicar, the Rev. David Neuhaus — to pay a visit to the facility. Many inmates expressed confusion over their internment, asking what crimes they had committed…

Pope hopes to strengthen interfaith relations in Jerusalem visit (Al Jazeera) Fifty years after the historic embrace between the heads of the Catholic and Christian Orthodox churches, Pope Francis will become the fourth pope to visit the Holy Land…



Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Ecumenism United Nations Migrants

19 May 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Yesterday, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej visited Obrenovac, southwest of Belgrade, Serbia, and met with those providing aid to flood victims. (photo: Serbian Orthodox Church)

Worst deluge in a century inundates Serbia, Bosnia (Christian Science Monitor) Soldiers, police, and villagers battled to protect power plants in Serbia from rising floodwaters on Sunday as the death toll from the Balkan region’s worst rainfall in more than a century reached 37…

Caritas Serbia: situation still ‘chaotic’ (Vatican Radio) As large parts of the Balkan region remain under water, the coordinator for Caritas Serbia said people have begun to suffer from waterborne diseases. The situation is “still very chaotic” and it is “extremely difficult still to coordinate” aid, Darko Tot told Vatican Radio on Monday…

Unity is a difficult mission for Christians in Israel (NPR) Pope Francis visits the Middle East next week, including Israel, where Christians make up just 2 percent of the population. But since the last papal visit to the Holy Land five years ago, the number of Christians in Israel has increased, and the makeup of the Christian population has continued to shift…

Putin orders troops near Ukraine to return home (Al Jazeera) Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops deployed in regions near Ukraine to return to their home bases, the Kremlin said on Monday. The move appears to indicate Putin’s intention to de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine, the worst in Russia’s relations with the West since the end of the Cold War, although previous pledges to withdraw troops have gone unmet…

Russian church the absent player at pope-patriarch summit (Reuters) When Pope Francis meets the spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians next week, the speeches and symbolism will focus on how these ancient wings of Christianity want to come closer together. After almost a millennium apart, however, the key to the elusive unity they seek does not lie in Jerusalem, where the Catholic pope and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will embrace on 25 May. If anywhere, that key lies in Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Church, by far the largest church in the Orthodox world and increasingly influential at home and abroad, has long been wary of these closer ties…



Tags: Ukraine Middle East Christians Christian Unity Holy Land Christians Serbia

16 May 2014
Greg Kandra




A medic treats a boy who was injured after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad at a hospital in Idlib, Syria on 15 May.
(photo: CNS /Rasem Ghareeb, Reuters)


Rocket attack kills 13 in Aleppo (AP) A rebel rocket attack killed 13 people Friday in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo, the latest shelling to strike the country’s largest city, Syria’s state news agency reported. State news agency SANA said the rocket attack in Aleppo also wounded 17 people in the city’s northern neighborhood of Achrafieh. The agency said the attack was carried out by “terrorists,” the term the government uses to refer to rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad. It said the shells also damaged two houses in the area...

U.N. cites rising human rights violations in Ukraine (The New York Times) Armed groups are increasingly undermining the rights and basic freedoms of people in eastern Ukraine, the United Nations said Friday, expressing concern at the rising number of killings, abductions, beatings and detentions of journalists, politicians and local activists. “Primarily as a result of the actions of organized armed groups, the continuation of the rhetoric of hatred and propaganda fuels the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, with a potential of spiraling out of control,” the United Nations said in its second report on the issue in a month, which was released simultaneously in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and in Geneva...

Rabbi and Muslim leaders to accompany pope to Holy Land (Religion News Service) Pope Francis will be accompanied on his first visit to the Middle East by Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud — two friends from Buenos Aires. It is the first time a pope has made an official visit accompanied by members of other faiths, and it underscores the interfaith focus of Francis’ trip to the Holy Land, the Vatican said on 15 May. “This dimension of interreligious dialogue has great significance,” the Vatican’s official spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told the media...

Christian group in India calls for limits to extremist groups after election (Fides) While the official outcome of the Indian elections marked the victory of the nationalist “Bharatiya Janata Party,” its leader Narendra Modi—likely to become the next Prime Minister—announced “a new era for India, free from corruption and a strong economic recovery”. Modi has urged unity for the entire Indian population: “We put the people above politics,” he said, “hope over despair, healing over evil, inclusion over exclusion, development over divisions”. In a note sent to Fides Agency, the Christians of the “Global Council of Indian Chrsitians,” an organization that includes believers of different faiths, said that this will be possible if the government limits the violent action of Hindu extremist groups”...



Tags: Syria India Ukraine United Nations Pope

15 May 2014
Greg Kandra




U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Denis. J. Madden meet with Seyyed Mahmoud, left, at the Ayatollah Marashi Najafi Library in Qom, Iran, in March. At right is Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops’ office of International Justice and Peace. The meeting was part of a dialogue between the bishops and Iranian Muslim leaders on nuclear weapons.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Stephen M. Colecchi)


U.S. bishops, Iranian ayatollahs hold dialogue on nuclear weapons (CNS) Quietly, a small group of U.S. Catholic bishops and Iranian ayatollahs began in March what they intend to be an ongoing dialogue on nuclear weapons and the role of faith leaders in influencing political moves on the issue of Iran's nuclear program. The meetings in Iran, hosted by the Supreme Council of Seminary Teachers of Qom, began with basic discussions of areas of philosophical and theological commonality between Catholicism and Islam and concluded with a commitment to issue a joint statement, said the U.S. bishop who led the delegation...

Holy Land events are prelude to pope’s visit (CNS) As Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land approaches, the trip is being marked with special events, government sessions, online videos and a photography exhibition both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The activities look at the history of the relationship between the Vatican and the Holy Land and serve to urge Pope Francis to look at the current political situation in the region during his brief stay...

Vatican investigating Indian Jesuit’s work (CNS) A leading Indian Jesuit theologian specializing in mission, dialogue and inculturation, has been engaged in a dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but has not been censured or silenced by the Vatican. Jesuit Father Michael Amaladoss, 77, is director of the Institute for Dialogue with Cultures and Religions at the Jesuit-run Loyola College in Chennai, India. Jesuit Father Joe Antony, acting provincial of the Madurai province to which Father Amaladoss belongs, told Catholic News Service on 14 May: “There has been no condemnation or censure, but for nearly two years there has been a dialogue between Father Amaladoss and the doctrinal congregation...”

Syrian diplomat denies allegations of forced starvation, chemical attacks (CNN) Chemical attacks with chlorine gas. Barrel bombs dropped from regime helicopters. Syrians starved into submission in opposition-controlled areas. The alleged assaults by the Syrian government against its own people are atrocious. But in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, the country’s deputy foreign minister says such claims are rubbish. “I assure you 100% that chlorine gas has never been used by the government,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said...

Ukrainian archbishop decries actions by Russia (Byzcath.org) The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See, condemned recent Russian actions during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “There was no tension between Ukrainians and Russians in Ukraine until the Russian government annexed Crimea,” Major Archbishop Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told the Canadian leader during a recent meeting...

Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue marks anniversary (VIS) The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation on Monday 19 May. The dicastery was instituted with the name “Secretariat for non-Christians” on 19 May 1964 by Pope Paul VI, with the Apostolic Letter “Progrediente Concilio”, with the aim of paying attention to those who were without the Christian religion and to whom the words of the Lord would seem to refer: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also”...



14 May 2014
Greg Kandra




People mourn on 14 May for their relatives and friends after a mine explosion a day earlier in Soma, Turkey. More than 225 people died in the explosion. Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience that his prayers were with those killed in the disaster.
(photo: CNS /Togla Bozoglu, EPA)


Pope prays for victims of Turkish mining disaster (Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for the miners who lost their lives in a mining disaster in Turkey: “Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for the miners who died in the mine yesterday in Soma, Turkey, and for those who are still trapped in the tunnels. May the Lord receive the deceased in His house and give comfort to their families...”

UN mediator on Syria quits, peace prospects dim (The New York Times) International efforts to end the war in Syria faltered further on Tuesday as the United Nations mediator quit, citing frustrations over the moribund political negotiations, and France’s top diplomat said there was evidence the Syrian government used chemical weapons more than a dozen times after it signed the treaty banning them. Taken together, the two events pointed to the failings of the West’s signature efforts on Syria, finding a diplomatic way out of a civil war in its fourth year — and a pact that was proudly touted as stopping the Syrian government from using chemical weapons...

Pope appeals to stop “shameful carnage” of migrant deaths (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is calling on Europe to unite forces and to put human rights in the forefront as the death toll of migrants trying to reach Europe continues to rise...

Talks to end crisis in Ukraine set to begin in Kiev (BBC) Talks to end the crisis in Ukraine are due to begin in Kiev, brokered by international monitors, but pro-Russian rebels look unlikely to attend. The round table was organised as part of a roadmap drawn up by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation and Europe (OSCE). Government and regional figures are to attend but the idea was for the talks to be as inclusive as possible...

Grand Mufti proposes “pact” between Muslims and Christians in Middle East (Fides) Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic and the highest authority of Sunni Islam in the Country of the cedars, proposed a Christian-Muslim pact as a contribution to the promotion of peaceful coexistence in the nation. He submitted the content to the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros Rai, during the meeting between Cardinal Rai and a delegation of the Islamic Sharia Council, which took place on 13 May at the Maronite patriarchal See in Bkerké...

Pope Tawadros says charter secures equality for all Egyptians (Gulfnews) New Egypt’s charter enshrines the rights of citizenship and equality for every Egyptian, Muslims and Copts, said Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark yesterday. Dismissing persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II told a news conference held in Abu Dhabi, as neighbours at home, partners at work, friends in schools and colleges, Muslims and Christians have been living in harmony for more than 14 centuries. “But some problems between Copts and Muslims pop up from time to time. The new constitution will help solve these problems, so that justice and peace prevail,” the Coptic Pope said, winding up a several days visit to the UAE...

Resort rises on site where Jesus may have taught (The New York Times) For the Rev. Juan M. Solana, it was the spiritual equivalent of striking oil. When he set out to develop a resort for Christian pilgrims in Galilee, he unearthed a holy site: the presumed hometown of Mary Magdalene and an ancient synagogue where experts say Jesus may well have taught. The project, which Father Solana, a Roman Catholic priest, describes as “providential,” will be blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Land this month...



13 May 2014
Greg Kandra




Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem pauses during an 11 May news conference in the northern city of Haifa, called because of recent attacks dubbed “price tagging.” Archbishop Twal said a spate of attacks he described as acts of terror against the church were poisoning the atmosphere ahead of this month’s visit by Pope Francis, and urged Israel to arrest more perpetrators. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

Patriarch wants Israelis to crack down on vandalism at religious sites (CNS) The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem called a continuing wave of vandalism against Christian, Muslim and Druze properties a “blight on Israeli democracy” and urged authorities to step up prosecution against the perpetrators. Patriarch Fouad Twal said during a news conference on 11 May in the northern city of Haifa that the attacks, which involve scrawling and spray painting racist and anti-Christian and anti-Muslim messages on buildings and holy sites, was particularly troublesome in light of Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Holy Land on 24-26 May...

Cardinal challenges interfaith leaders to promote peace (Vatican Radio) Do the choices we make as individuals or collectively lead to increasing peace or increasing violence? That’s the question posed by Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran to participants at a seminar Monday at Petra University in Amman, Jordan exploring the theme “religion and violence.” In his discourse entitled, “Religion, society and violence: causes and results. The role of religious leaders for peace and social cohesion,” the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue challenged religious leaders to be at the forefront of efforts to promote peace in their societies...

Group claims Syria used chemical weapons last month (AP) An international human rights group said Tuesday it has strong evidence that the Syrian army used chlorine gas on three rebel-held towns last month. The statement by the New-York based Human Rights Watch adds to concerns that chemical weapons are still being used in Syria, months after a chemical attack killed hundreds of civilians last August. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, said in April that it would investigate the chlorine claims but hasn’t commented further...

Metropolitan Hilarion says he was refused entry to Ukraine (Reuters) A top cleric from the Russian Orthodox Church said he was refused entry to Ukraine this week amid an escalating stand-off between Moscow and Kiev over separatist unrest in Ukraine’s east. The church’s Department of External Relations said its head, Metropolitan Hilarion, was turned back on Friday at the airport in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk where he came to award a prize to a local cleric. “I was given no explanation,” Hilarion told Russian state news channel Rossiya 24. “Apparently my name, and possibly the names of other Church hierarchs, are on a list of people who are banned from entering Ukraine.” The Ukrainian border guard declined to comment...







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