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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
11 March 2014
Greg Kandra




Mother Plagia Sayyaf of Mar Thecla monastery in Maaloula, Syria, left, who along with at least 11 other nuns was freed after three months, attends a prayer service at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross in Damascus on 10 March. Islamist rebels claim ed responsibility for the abduction of the nuns in December from Syria's ancient town of Maaloula.
(photo: CNS/Khaled al-Hariri, Reuters)


Syria claims it freed 25 prisoners in exchange for nuns ( Al Jazeera) Syria freed only 25 prisoners, not 150 as had been reported, in exchange for a group of kidnapped nuns, the country’s information minister Omran al-Zoubi has said. The statement came despite mediators and the opposition saying 150 female detainees had been freed in exchange for the nuns, who were kidnapped from the town of Maalula by rebels fighters last year. “The number of people released in exchange for the Maalula nuns is not more than 25 people, whose hands had not been stained by the blood of the Syrian people,” state news agency SANA quoted Zoubi as saying. “Everything that has been said on this issue is not accurate and has been exaggerated...”

Catholic officials call release of nuns an answer to prayers (CNS) The release of at least 12 Greek Orthodox nuns who were abducted in Syria in December was an answer to prayers, said regional Catholic officials. Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham said 10 March that he felt “a wave of joy” along with “thousands and thousands” of other people when he heard the nuns had been freed a day earlier. Islamist rebels claimed responsibility for the abduction of the nuns in December from Syria’s ancient town of Maaloula, where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken. Two Orthodox bishops and three priests, including an Armenian Catholic and Italian Jesuit, also have been abducted in Syria and remain missing...

Ukraine’s ousted leader urges resistance to new government (The New York Times) As Russia tightened its grip on Crimea, Ukraine’s ousted president appealed on Tuesday to the country’s military units to refuse to follow the orders of the new interim authorities, declaring that he remained commander in chief and would return to the country as soon as conditions permitted. Appearing in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don for the first time since the scale of Russia’s intervention in Crimea became evident, the ousted leader, Viktor F. Yanukovych, denounced the West for rushing to recognize and to provide financial assistance to a government he said was a junta...

Orthodox to hold a pan-Orthodox synod in 2016 (Catholic World News) The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople will preside over a pan-Orthodox council in 2016, according to a statement from the patriarchate. The decision to hold a pan-Orthodox council — officially called the “Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church” — was announced at the conclusion of a meeting of all the heads of the Eastern Orthodox churches. During the meeting, the leaders also discussed the situation in Syria and Ukraine...

Communists and Catholics forge alliance in India (UCANews.com) The Communist party in Kerala has thrown its support behind five Christian candidates in the southern Indian state, a traditionally Christian stronghold, in the country’s forthcoming national elections. The move highlights a bridging of the divide between communists and Christians in the state, as well as a growing disaffection between Christians and the ruling Congress party, particularly over the issue of the government’s plans to protect the Western Ghats, a hilly region that runs through Kerala. Christians, who comprise less than 20 percent of the state’s 30 million population, have been politically decisive in some pockets of the state’s electorate and are traditionally strong backers of the Congress party...



10 March 2014
Greg Kandra




A boy cries as he stands amid rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo on 6 March.
(photo: CNS/Hosam Katan, Reuters)


Kidnapped Syrian nuns freed (The New York Times) Syrian insurgents released 13 nuns and three attendants who disappeared three months ago from their monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, Lebanese and Syrian officials said early Monday, ending a drama in which rebels said they were protecting the women from government shelling and Syrian officials said they were abducted in an act of intimidation against Christians. The handoff was infused with suspense until the last moment. Officials said Sunday afternoon that the nuns had crossed the mountainous border to Arsal, a pro-rebel town in Lebanon, to be handed off to Lebanese officials and driven to Syria...

Russia condemns “lawlessness” in Ukraine (CNN) Russia accused far-right groups Monday of “conniving” with the new authorities in Ukraine, as pro-Moscow forces consolidated their hold on their neighbor’s Black Sea peninsula. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned “lawlessness” in eastern Ukraine and accused the West of being silent over violence and detentions taking place against Russian citizens, such as one incident last week when it said masked gunmen fired on and injured peaceful protesters...

Bishop of Aleppo writes: “We Christians live in fear” (The Telegraph) Today, the first Sunday of Lent, will see churches crowded across the globe. But here in Syria, where St Paul found his faith, many churches stand empty, targets for bombardment and desecration. Aleppo, where I have been bishop for 25 years, is devastated. We have become accustomed to the daily dose of death and destruction, but living in such uncertainty and fear exhausts the body and the mind...

Catholicism growing in heart of Muslim world (The Boston Globe) Many Americans have heard or read reports about an exodus of Christians out of the Middle East, and in terms of the indigenous Arab Christian population that’s all too real. Christians now make up only 5 percent of the region’s population, down from 20 percent a century ago. In places like Iraq, whole Christian communities are on the brink of extinction. Yet the Arabian Peninsula today is also, improbably, seeing one of the most dramatic Catholic growth rates anywhere in the world. The expansion is being driven not by Arab converts, but by foreign ex-pats whom the region increasingly relies on for manual labor and domestic service...

Pope and World Council of Churches discuss opportunities for Christian Unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, have discussed “new opportunities for Christian unity today”, focused on working together for peace, justice and environmental protection. At a meeting in the Vatican on Friday, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the path of “full and visible communion” among Christians of different denominations. They also talked about peace in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula, about economic justice and about an upcoming summit of religious leaders to press for urgent action on climate change...

A visit to Kerala: they don’t call it “God’s own country” for nothing (The Washington Post) As grandiose slogans go, Kerala has one of the best: “God’s Own Country,” they call it, an assertion of divine provenance that’s loudly proclaimed on countless signposts and bumper stickers across the state. In most corners of the planet, such a boast would sound unbearably self-satisfied, tourist-oriented branding at its tritest. But here in this prosperous state on the southwest coast of India, it doesn’t sound smug so much as sincere, precise even. “Rest your eyes on our natural splendor,” it seems to say, “and believe...”



7 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this October photograph, stuffed animals sit atop the coffins of children, lined up alongside coffins of other African migrants who drowned trying to reach Italian shores in Lampedusa, Italy. (photo: CNS/Antonio Parrinello, Reuters)

Eritrea: A humanitarian emergency (Vatican Radio) Vatican Radio held a conference on Thursday, sponsored by the International Organization for Migration, on the plight of Eritreans forced to flee their country. Since 2004 over 200,000 Eritreans — more than 3 percent of the 5.6 million people in the nation — have fled to border camps in Eastern Sudan and also Israel. Thousands have also tried to escape to Europe by crossing the Mediterranean on low-quality or improvised boats, many dying on the journey…

Georgian Orthodox Church committed to securing Georgian E.U. membership (Eurasia Review) Patriarch Ilia II, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, said during a meeting with visiting European Union official that the church “will do everything” to help Georgia become a member state. The patriarch remarked that “incorrect information is disseminated in some countries,” suggesting the church seeks to hinder this process, but dismissed such claims as perhaps being financially motivated…

Iraqi atheists demand recognition, guarantee of their rights (Al Monitor) Atheism might seem a surprising phenomenon in a country such as Iraq, where the degree of interest in religion is very high. Yet there are many in the nation who identify themselves as atheists and who demand that their rights be safeguarded in accordance with U.N. resolutions that guarantee freedom of belief. Surveys have indicated the existence of a growing agnostic movement in the country, which continues to expand at a remarkable pace. Atheism has deep historical roots in Iraq, typically as an elitist phenomenon restricted to intellectuals and scholars, but has in recent times expanded in scope to cross many social boundaries…

The role of the churches in the Ukrainian revolution (ABC News) The churches are playing a decisive role in the Ukrainian revolution. This is apparent from the prominence in Maidan Square of dozens of priests and pastors from different religious confessions who have been there every day for three months, offering to gather ecumenically with the faithful in prayer…



Tags: Iraq Ukraine Eastern Churches Eritrea Georgian Orthodox Church

6 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from 2009, two years before Syria’s civil war, youth in Aleppo participate in a basketball competition hosted by an organization that uses sports to bridge sectarian lines. (photo: Spencer Osberg)

Syrian army to impose blockade in Aleppo (Al Monitor) The Syrian army is launching attacks on Aleppo and its surroundings to try to isolate armed militants, in light of a visit by a Baath delegation to the city. The army has recently intensified its raids on the city’s eastern neighborhoods that are under the grip of the militants, thus leading to the displacement of most citizens to the northern suburbs…

Ukraine: Crimean parliament moves to secede (Al Jazeera) The parliament of Crimea, a, majority-Russian peninsula in Ukraine currently under Russian occupation, has unanimously voted in favor of joining the Russia federation and moved a public referendum on the matter up to 16 March, decisions which the new government in Kiev called illegitimate and illegal…

Ukrainian Orthodox bishop urges Putin to withdraw from Ukraine (RISU) The head of the Lviv Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, Bishop Filaret, sent Vladimir Putin a request to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine. “My message may seem rude, but today we can no longer speak streamlined phrases, it’s time to act in accordance with the Gospel: ‘But let your “yes” be “yes,” and your “no” be “no.” Anything more than this is from the evil one.’ … There are no grounds for Russian soldiers to control the socio-political or any other situations in our country. Peace and a sustainable solution to Ukraine’s crisis are most important for us today,” he said…

One goal in hand, Kiev’s demonstrators vow to stay ‘until the end’ (New York Times) Those who stood up to Ukraine’s ousted authorities trust neither their interim government nor Russia, and many intend to remain in place at least through elections in late spring. Only then will they decide if they are satisfied enough to leave their fighting positions in the capital’s central square…

U.N. envoy cuts short visit to Crimea under threat of armed men (Christian Science Monitor) A special U.N. envoy cut short his mission in Crimea on Wednesday after being threatened by 10-15 armed men and ordered to leave the region, where Ukraine and Russia are locked in a tense standoff, U.N. officials said…

Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kievan Patriarchate creates commission for dialogue (RISU) The Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kievan Patriarchate welcomed the decision of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate to enter into dialogue. In this regard, the former expressed its readiness, “on a canonical basis,” to “restore the unity and establish a national status for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine…”

Trial of Al Jazeera reporters resumes in Egypt (BBC) The trial of Al Jazeera journalists accused of joining or aiding a terrorist group has resumed in Egypt. One asked the judge to free him on bail so he could receive medical treatment. In all, 20 people — including former BBC correspondent Peter Greste — are on trial, 12 of them in absentia. Al Jazeera says only nine of the defendants are among its employees…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Syrian Civil War Russia Crimea

5 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




People attend a prayer service at a church in Kiev, Ukraine, on 23 February. (photo: CNS/David Mdzinarishvili, Reuters)

Hoping to shore up Ukraine government, European Union offers billions in aid (New York Times) The European Union added a significant financial underpinning to the struggling Ukraine government on Wednesday in the midst of the East-West crisis with Russia over Ukraine’s future, offering aid worth as much as $15 billion over the next two years. The offer comes on top of the $1 billion in American loan guarantees to ease Ukraine’s economic transition, announced here on Tuesday by Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit aimed at reassuring the interim Ukraine authorities and challenging Russia, which escalated the crisis last weekend by seizing control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula…

Pro-Russian crowd recaptures Donetsk building (Daily Star Lebanon) A crowd of pro-Russian activists recaptured the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Wednesday, hours after they were ejected by police. Donetsk has seen the most persistent of a wave of pro-Russian demonstrations that broke out in southern and eastern cities on Saturday as President Vladimir Putin was declaring Russia’s right to invade…

With Ukraine under siege, Georgia and Moldova double down on Europe (Al Jazeera) On 22 February, as Ukraine politicians voted to remove their Kremlin-friendly president, a roaring crowd in another nation took on their Russian foe. The Georgian rugby team defeated the Russian Bears, 36-10, before a near sold-out crowd in their home stadium. During the lap of honor, the Georgian players held up a banner: “Sokhumi and Tskhinvali = Georgia.” It referred to the capitals of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which like Transnistria in Moldova and potentially Crimea in Ukraine, are breakaway regions now under de facto Russian control. Russia has long tried to intimidate Georgia and Moldova out of their westward shift; Moldova is currently bleeding from a Kremlin boycott of its wine, and Georgia is still nursing the wounds of its 2008 war. But watching Russian troops move into Ukraine has only steeled the resolve of these two small nations to join Europe as quickly as possible. It has also made Western leaders more committed to making that happen…

Patriarch Twal says pope’s visit will boost the peace process (Fides) The visit Pope Francis will carry out in the Holy Land at the end of May will give a new impetus to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, wrote Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem in a pastoral letter for Lent. “[The pope] will come to confirm our faith, to intensify ecumenical relations and interreligious dialogue and give a new impetus to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, strengthening relations between the Vatican and each of the Countries that he will visit: Jordan, Palestine and Israel…”

Creative Gazans develop new crafts to cope with siege (Al Monitor) In times of crises and hopelessness, people search for the smallest things to make life livable. The intensification of the siege has spawned creativity in the most unlikely of places, as citizens seek outlets in an attempt to adapt to the crisis. Mohammed al Zomar, Hassan Saad and Ahmed al Arouqi each took an idea and defeated despair using light, water and colors…

Christians under threat in Syria (U.S. Department of State) Last week in Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant announced it will force Syrian Christians to either convert to Islam, remain Christian and pay a tax, or face death. These outrageous conditions violate universal human rights. The Syrian people have a long history of tolerance and coexistence, but both the regime and ISIL are fueling sectarian strife to justify their brutality. We strongly condemn these abuses and urge all parties to protect and respect the rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion…



Tags: Ukraine Middle East Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Russia Georgia

4 March 2014
Greg Kandra




Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk in formation outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, Ukraine, on 3 March. (photo: CNS/David Mdzinarishvili, Reuters)

Putin calls Ukraine revolt unconstitutional (Associated Press) Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled his forces back from the Ukrainian border on Tuesday yet said Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians there. He accused the West of encouraging an unconstitutional coup in Ukraine and driving it into anarchy. He also declared that any sanctions the West places on Russia will backfire...

Syria has removed a third of its chemical weapons (Reuters) Syria has shipped out about a third of its chemical weapons stockpile, including mustard gas, for destruction abroad, the global chemical arms watchdog said on Tuesday. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague said Damascus had now handed over six consignments of the toxic agents it declared to the OPCW as part of a Russian-U.S. deal struck last year...

Syria begins season of Lent (Fides) In Syria, the Eastern Rite Churches have already begun Lent, the liturgical season during which the Christian, with a journey of conversion, fully lives the mystery of the resurrection of Christ in his annual memory. For the third consecutive year, the beginning of Lent is lived by Syrian Christians in a country torn apart by civil war. “In our parishes” the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo Boutros Marayati said “we celebrated the beginning of Lent already on Sunday afternoon. There were many faithful and the participation was intense...”

Cardinal defends religious liberty (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Peter Turkson on Tuesday highlighted the importance of religious freedom saying “It is important to preserve and defend religious freedom because it concerns “each person’s freedom to live according to their own deeper understanding of the truth.” Cardinal Turkson, Pesident of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was speaking at a conference entitled “The Church and Human Rights,” taking place in Bratislava, on the initiative of the Slovakian Bishops’ Conference. In his address, Cardinal Turkson said, “freedom of religion is inseparable from freedom of thought and conscience” and includes “the freedom to change one’s religion or belief” and “the freedom to manifest that religion or belief both in private and communally...”

Spanish missionary priest is the only Catholic presence in one region of Ethiopia (Fides) Father Christopher Hartley Sartorios, a 55-year-old Spanish diocesan missionary from Toledo, is the only Catholic priest who has ever reached the Somali region of Ethiopia called Ogaden, where he has been living alone for 7 years in Gode, a territory which is 100% Muslim...



3 March 2014
Greg Kandra




An Orthodox priest prays next to armed servicemen near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in Ukraine’s Crimean region on 1 March. The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said Ukrainians must be prepared “to sacrifice our lives in order to protect the sovereign, free, independent, and unified state.” (photo: CNS/Baz Ratner, Reuters)

Pope prays for Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis asked for prayers for Ukraine on Sunday, which he said was living through a delicate situation. The Holy Father expressed the hope that all parts of the country “will endeavour to overcome misunderstandings and build together the future of the nation.” The Pope also appealed to the international community “to support any initiative for dialogue and harmony.” He made the call following the recitation of the Angelus in St Peter’s Square...

Russia: US threats over Ukraine “unacceptable” (Voice of Russia) The Russian Foreign Ministry has described US Secretary of State John Kerry’s threats to Russia in connection with the situation in Ukraine as unacceptable. “We deem the threats against Russia unacceptable, conveyed in a series of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s public statements in connection with the latest developments in Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement...

World leaders condemn Russian invasion of Crimea (Sydney Morning Herald) The leaders of the world’s top industrialised powers have turned on fellow G8 member Russia, condemning its “clear” violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty after the invasion of the Crimean Peninsula. In a pointed statement referring to themselves as the G7 — rather than the G8 — the leaders said Russia’s actions were incompatible with the Group of Eight Nations, which Moscow joined in 1997, and said they would not take part in preparatory talks for June’s G8 summit in Sochi...

Ukrainian Catholic leader: “We must be ready to sacrifice our lives” (Catholic World News) As Russian military forces intervened in the Ukraine’s Crimean region, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said that “we must stand up for our country” and “be ready, if necessary, to sacrifice our lives in order to protect the sovereign, free, independent, and unified state.” “The entire world community is on the side of Ukraine, as Russia is the aggressor,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, according to a report from the Religious Information Service of Ukraine. “During the last three months, the Church, especially the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was with its people. And it will continue to remain with its people. If, God forbid, we will have to stand together on the battlefield with our soldiers, with our army, the Ukrainian Church, especially the UGCC, is ready to provide pastoral support...”

Catholic church in Gaza attacked (Associated Press) A Palestinian rights group says assailants have attacked a Catholic church in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights says an explosive detonated in the church’s yard. The group said an “abusive slogan” was written on the church wall. No further damage or injuries were reported. Hamas police spokesman Ayoub abu Shaar said Thursday an investigation was opened into the attack, which occurred Wednesday...



28 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis meets with 45 important interfaith leaders from Argentina who have just returned from the Holy Land. (photo: Vatican Radio/L’Osservatore Romano)

Ukraine’s ex-President makes first public appearance (BBC) Ukraine’s ex-President Viktor Yanukovych has made his first public appearance since being ousted last week, telling a news conference in Russia he would fight for his country. He said he was “not overthrown’, but was compelled to leave Ukraine after threats to his life. Those who drove him from power were “young neo-fascist thugs”, he said. He said current tensions in Crimea were “understandable” but stated his desire for Ukraine to remain united...

Christians fleeing Syria to return to Turkey (Reuters) When Louis Bandak fled the violence in Syria, he sought refuge in the country his grandfather was forced to abandon exactly 90 years ago this week. Bandak, his wife and two daughters are part of a small but growing trickle of Christians arriving in Turkey after three years of civil war in Syria killed more than 140,000 people. “Although I had never been here before, it does not feel strange. This too is my homeland,” says Bandak, sitting in warm winter sun outside the 5th Century Mor Abrohom Monastery in Midyat, 30 miles north of the border. While most Christian refugees are in Lebanon or Jordan, countries with which they share linguistic or cultural ties, several thousand have come to Turkey. For many it is a reversal of their ancestors’ flight around a century ago, when World War One and the subsequent building of the post-Ottoman Turkish state made Turkey a hostile land for millions of Christians...

Pope meets with interfaith group on its return from Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has met with 45 important interfaith leaders from Argentina who have just returned from the Holy Land, which the Pontiff himself is due to visit in May. Thursday’s meeting in the Santa Marta guesthouse included 15 Jews, 15 Muslims and 15 Catholics. Their trip covered many of the stops which the Holy Father is expected to visit during his brief pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The group met leading political and religious authorities and visited the holy sites of the three monotheistic religions...

Syriac community receives deed for ancient monastery land in Turkey (Hurriyet Daily News) The lands of the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery located in Turkey’s southeastern province of Mardin have been returned to the Syriac community, completing an important step in the slow-running restoration of the group’s property...

Study shows 74% of children in Kerala addicted to tobacco (International Business Times) Kerala, India’s most literate state with more than 93.91 percent literacy rate, is also home for largest number of alcoholics, cancer patients and children addicted to tobacco. A study by National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) revealed this startling facts. The study said that 74 percent of Kerala’s children between the age group 5-18 consume tobacco. As part of the study, a total of 119 children were covered examining their pattern, profile and substance use, reported American Bazaar...



27 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Flowers and rosaries are seen at the site in Kiev where people have been killed in recent clashes protesting against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. Yanukovich, ousted after bloody street protests, is wanted for mass murder. (photo: CNS/David Mdzinarishvili, Reuters)

Islamic group imposes rules on Christians in Syria under penalty of death (BBC) A jihadist group in Syria has demanded that Christians in the northern city of Raqqa pay a levy in gold and accept curbs on their faith, or face death. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) said it would give Christian residents “protection” if they agreed to the list of conditions. The announcement came in a statement posted online...

Tensions mount in Crimea (The Washington Post) With unrest growing in the Crimea over Ukraine’s political transformation, a group of armed men seized the local parliament and the regional government headquarters in Simferopol early Thursday morning, barricaded themselves inside both buildings and raised Russian flags, news services reported. They were reported to be wearing plain uniforms without designating marks. The Interfax news agency quoted a local authority as saying the men were from a Crimean self-defense group...

Ukrainians hope their nation has a new beginning (The Catholic Register) As Toronto’s Ukrainians woke up to news that former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was on the run in eastern Ukraine after parliament had voted him out of office and that national elections are scheduled for 25 May, they gathered to pray. At Dormition of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church all three Divine Liturgies on 23 February included special, added prayers for the future of Ukraine.It caps more than a month of prayers for their homeland at the giant Mississauga parish. “We’re all Ukrainians. We do want to show our respect and solidarity with our brothers and sisters,” said Vlodko, a cantor at the church who declined to give his last name. “And in prayer, that’s the best solidarity we can show...”

Maronites to ordain first married man to priesthood in United States (The St. Louis Review) Pope Francis has granted permission for a married deacon to be ordained to the priesthood for the Maronite Catholic Church for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon. Deacon Wissam Akiki will be ordained 27 February at St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis. He is married to Manal Kassab and they have a daughter, Perla. He is the first married man to be ordained for the priesthood for the U.S. Maronite Catholic Church. The Maronite Church is Eastern rite and is among 22 Catholic Churches that are in union with each other and under the authority of the pope in Rome. The spiritual heritage of the Maronite Church is traced to a fourth-century hermit, St. Maron...



26 February 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from November, tents of Syrian refugees are seen at a camp at the Lebanese border town of Arsal, in the eastern Bekaa Valley. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)

Syrian refugee crisis intensifying (Vatican Radio) In more than three years of civil war, more than 100 thousand people have been killed, and more than 2.5 million Syrians have fled their homes. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), just over 2.1 million people have sought refuge in Syria’s immediate neighbours: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Others have remained for the time being inside Syria, while fewer than 100 thousand people have declared asylum in Europe...

In rare statement, Benedict denies he was forced to resign (The Telegraph) Former Pope Benedict, in one of the few times he has broken his silence since stepping down a year ago, has branded as ‘absurd’ fresh media speculation that he was forced to quit. n a rare public statement, the 86-year-old former pontiff insisted that he had freely taken the decision to become the first Pope since the Middle Ages to resign the seat of St. Peter, in a move that shocked the Catholic Church and made headlines around the world...

Patriarch appeals for unity in Ukraine (AsiaNews) The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, on Sunday launched an appeal for the unity and peace in Ukraine at the end of the Sunday liturgy, celebrated in the church of San Michele in Troporevo, in the Russian capital. The primate — reports Interfax news agency — knelt at the altar and prayed to God to grant his light to minds “clouded by violence”...

New Israeli law draws fire (AFP) A new Israeli law giving Muslim and Christian Arab citizens separate representation on a national employment commission drew fire from the Palestinians on Tuesday. “This law aims to create a new reality among our people based on religion and not national identity,” Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement...

Coptic Church denies it is planning to build first church in Saudi Arabia (Arabian Business) The Coptic Orthodox Church has issued a statement denying reports it has struck an agreement with Saudi Arabian officials to build the first church in the kingdom. The rumours and reports surfaced after His Holiness Pope Tawadros II met with the Saudi Ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Kattan, in Cairo at the weekend, with the MidEast Christian News agency claiming the possibility of setting up a church had been addressed at the meeting. However, Father Paul Halim, the official spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, told the US Copts Association the reports were “untrue”...







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