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Current Issue
March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
15 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Staffan de Mistura United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria at the United Nations on 14 February 2018.
(photo: Andalou Agency/Getty Images)


UN envoy: Civilians killed ‘on a horrific scale’ in Syria (Al Jazeera) The UN special envoy for Syria has given warning that violence in the country is the worst he has seen since taking the job four years ago. Staffan de Mistura’s remarks on Wednesday came as the US and Russia again traded blame at the UN over the ongoing conflict. “Civilians have been killed on a horrific scale — reports suggest more than 1,000 civilians in the first week of February alone,” he told the UN Security Council...

Russian Orthodox leader criticizes Trump decision on Jerusalem (The Moscow Patriarchate) Answering questions from Romfea, a Greek church news agency, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations (DECR), spoke on a number of issues concerning inter-Orthodox relations, the situation in the Middle East and the situation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church...

Hindu party in India offers to send Christians to Jerusalem for free (Almasdranews.com) The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), the ruling party of India, is trying to woo Indian Christians into voting for it by promising free pilgrimages to the holy sites in Jerusalem if the party breaks through further in upcoming elections...

Gaza’s only power plant shuts down over fuel shortage (The Times of Israel) The closure of the plant, which normally provides around a fifth of Gaza’s electricity, will exacerbate an already critical power shortage. Gaza’s two million residents receive only around four hours of electricity a day...

A ‘small miracle’ for Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Crux) Sana Samia is managing director of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archdiocese of Zahlé, Lebanon, but that’s a job title, not a description, of this 32-year-old married laywoman with a work ethic the size of Texas. What she really is, certainly in the eyes of the Syrian refugees she assists on a daily basis, is a miracle-worker...



14 February 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian children play in the street as a United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent inter-agency aid convoy arrives in the town of Utaya, in the eastern Ghouta, on 14 February. (photo: Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N. officials, church leaders decry escalating situation in Syria (CNS) As Syria’s war soon enters its eighth year, many decry the recent dangerous escalation in the conflict, whether in the country’s north, between Turkey and the Kurds, or in the south, between Iran and Israel. Speaking from the sprawling Zaatari Refugee Camp housing 80,000 Syrians near Jordan’s border with Syria, the head of the U.N. refugee agency condemned the recent Israeli-Iranian confrontation over Syria, which threatens to open a new and unpredictable front in the war…

U.N. chief launches two-year plan to fast-track Iraq reconstruction (U.N. News) United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday launched a reconstruction program for Iraq, urging the global community to support Iraqis as they embark on the journey to rebuild their country and make sure that it is committed to unity and inclusivity…

Site of Jesus’ baptism to be cleared of mines after half a century (Christian Today) An ancient site revered as the location where Jesus was baptised may be reopened to the public as a massive de-mining programme gets under way. Qasr al Yahud, about 6 miles east of Jericho, has seven churches along with chapels and monasteries, mainly built during the 1930’s during the British Mandate period. It was a popular pilgrimage spot until Israel blocked access to it in 1968…

Bishops say religious nationalism in India is self-annihilation (UCA News) Promotion of nationalism based on religion threatened India with annihilation, the nation’s Catholic bishops warned at the conclusion of a biennial meeting. The alarm was sounded following a series of hardline Hindu attacks on Christian and other religious minorities…



Tags: Syria Iraq India United Nations

13 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis and Patriarch Youssef concelebrate Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.
(photo: Vatican Media)


Pope Francis says Mass with Melkite Greek patriarch (Vatican News) Pope Francis concelebrated Mass on Tuesday morning with the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Youssef Absi. Instead of delivering a homily, Pope Francis said a few words about the meaning of the day’s celebration, at which members of the Melkite Greek Synod participated...

Damascus warns Israel of ‘more surprises’ (The Jerusalem Post) The Syrian government said on Tuesday that Israel would face “more surprises” in future attacks on Syria’s territory, after Syrian air defenses shot down an Israeli F-16 jet. Syrian anti-aircraft fire downed the F-16 as it returned from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria early on Saturday. Both Iran and Russia are supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s near seven-year civil war...

Hindu hardliners attack Christian schools in India (UCANews.com) Hindu hardliners have stepped up intimidation of Christian educational institutions in India, not least Catholic colleges. In one recent case, sheer numbers were used to break through a security cordon with the aim of performing a nationalistic ritual...

Worsening Ethiopia drought threatens to end nomadic lifestyle (AFP) Down a sandy track past a desiccated animal carcass lies a cluster of half-built huts that Ethiopia’s government and aid agencies hope will blunt the worsening toll of repeated droughts. The soon-to-be village of Dabafayed is intended as a new, permanent home for once-nomadic herders made destitute by the country’s back-to-back droughts. The lifestyle change is drastic but necessary, officials say...

An end to Gaza’s misery is as elusive as peace (The New York Times) Gaza has dissolved into such misery that Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, chief of staff of the Israeli Army, has warned the cabinet that it is on the verge of collapse and there is a real threat of another uprising...



12 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A picture taken on 12 February shows children gathering around their tent in the middle of Gaza City. This family, including eight children, left their apartment after the father lost his job and could no longer pay rent — another sign of the dire financial straits facing so many in Gaza.
(photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)


With Gaza in financial crisis, fears that ‘an explosion is coming’ (The New York Times) Across Gaza, the densely populated enclave of two million Palestinians sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, daily life, long a struggle, is unraveling before people’s eyes. At the heart of the crisis — and its most immediate cause — is a crushing financial squeeze, the result of a tense standoff between Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules Gaza, and Fatah, the secular party entrenched on the West Bank. Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority but was driven out of Gaza by Hamas in 2007...

Israel warns: Iran and Syria are playing with fire (The Jerusalem Post) Israel warned Syria and Iran Saturday morning that their attempts to escalate the situation in the north will bring the full force of the IDF upon them...

Indian cardinal expresses ‘anguish’ over increasing threats to pluralism (Catholic Herald) Cardinal Oswald Gracias, newly elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, has expressed “anguish” over increasing threats to pluralism in the country. “Intolerance is causing a certain amount of anxiety to us,” Cardinal Gracias said in Bangalore, while addressing a news conference at the end of the assembly of Indian bishops...

Pennsylvania town welcomes growing number of Coptic Christians (York Daily Record) They’d already left their homes in Egypt and landed in York, coming a distance of almost 6,000 miles. Now, after almost two years of worshiping in downtown York, a community of 80 Egyptian Coptic Christian families has found a new home for now — this time, in Dallastown, about seven miles down the road...



9 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Vincent Nichols, shown in this photo from 2016, has urged churches and business leaders to do more to tackle the problem of human trafficking. (photo: CNS/Mohammed Saber, EPA)

Cardinal Nichols: step up efforts to stop human trafficking (Vatican News) Churches, governments, police and business leaders must do more to tackle the growing phenomenon of human trafficking. That’s the view of English Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who is in the Vatican this week for a meeting of the ‘Santa Marta’ group on combatting modern slavery and trafficking...

Trump: recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was high point of presidency (Haaretz) In an interview for an Israeli newspaper, President Donald Trump said that his 6 December declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was the high point of his time in office. In the Hebrew-language translation of an excerpt from Trump’s interview with Israel Hayom editor-in-chief Boaz Bismuth, Trump said that both Israel and the Palestinians would need to compromise significantly to achieve peace. Trump said this in replying to Bismuth’s question on whether Israel would have to give something in return for the declaration...

New Russian police chief enlists Orthodox priests, churches to help stamp out crime in the force (The Moscow Times) A new police chief in southern Russia has reportedly ordered for his subordinates to visit churches in an effort to stamp out crime within the force’s ranks. The unorthodox orders came after Rostov-on-Don police officers were arrested for starting a drunken fight, causing a car accident and accepting a bribe in the past week, the local 161.ru news website reported Thursday...

Iraq seeks $100 billion for reconstruction (Reuters) Iraq is seeking around $100 billion in foreign investment in transport, energy and agriculture as part of a plan to rebuild parts of the country and revive the economy after a three-year war on ISIS...

Ethiopia to free hundreds of prisoners (Reuters) Ethiopia will release 746 more prisoners, including a journalist and a senior opposition official who were jailed for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, the attorney general’s office said Thursday. The decision follows a series of changes announced by the government to try to reduce tension in Ethiopia, which has been hit by unrest since 2015...

Cardinal Gracias elected new president of Indian Bishops’ Conference (Vatican News) Almost 200 bishops are attending the 33rd General Body Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), which is taking place at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences in Koramangala, Bengaluru...



8 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A picture taken on 8 February 2018 shows the exterior of the Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus, one of the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in the Syrian capital, reflected on the glass pane of a window that was broken after rebel mortar bombardment that struck the eastern Bab Touma neighborhood.
(photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)


Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate hit by gunfire (Fides) Mortar fire from armed groups still in control of the eastern outskirts of the city has hit central Damascus and in particular the area of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate in the Bab Tuma neighborhood, at least two dead and three wounded. The shooting took place on 5 February and reached the border area of the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral St. George where a group of Russian volunteers had recently distributed aid packages to the local population...

U.S. bombs government forces in Syria (BBC) The US has carried out rare air strikes on Syrian pro-government forces after what it called an “unprovoked attack” on allied Kurdish and Arab fighters. US officials estimated that 100 pro-government fighters were killed in the incident on Wednesday...

UAE donates money to avoid shutdown of Gaza hospitals (Times of Israel) The United Arab Emirates has donated $2 million to help keep United Nations medical services in Gaza afloat amid a severe fuel shortage, the UAE’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday...

Cardinal calls Church the great driver in Indian society (Herald Malaysia) For Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, the Catholic Church is “a great driver of the social sectors” in India where millions of people are touched by the “service offered by an army of volunteers.” Indeed, Catholics “are the face of the compassionate Jesus to the poor and the broken.” The cardinal made these comments at the Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) currently underway in Bengaluru, Karnataka (2-9 February) where he is the guest of honor...

Jerusalem plans promenade to link settlements (Haaretz) The city of Jerusalem and Jerusalem Development Authority are advancing a plan to build a promenade in the Mount of Olives connecting the two Jewish residential compounds in the Palestinian A-Tur neighborhood. A proposal for a visitors’ center on the Mount of Olives is also being advanced...



7 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis speaks as he leads his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 7 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope appeals for action against human trafficking (Vatican News) Pope Francis has appealed for concerted action against human trafficking as we prepare to mark the Day of Prayer and Awareness against this terrible scourge. “I invite everyone, citizens and institutions, to join forces to prevent the slave trade and to guarantee protection and assistance for the victims” he said during the weekly General Audience in the Vatican…

Israel strikes Damascus complex (BBC) Israeli warplanes have fired missiles at a Syrian military position near the capital, Damascus, Syrian media report. A Syrian military statement said its air defense systems blocked most of the missiles, but gave no further details…

UN warns Gaza it has just 10 days of emergency fuel left (Al Jazeera) The United Nations has warned that Gaza’s emergency fuel supplies will run dry in 10 days unless it receives immediate donor support. In a statement published on Wednesday, officials said $6.5 million was needed to buy generator fuel and stave off the collapse of “critical services…”

Churches accuse Jerusalem mayor of violating agreements on taxes (Haaretz) Church representatives have accused Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat of breaching international treaties after the municipality said it planned to collect 650 million shekels ($186 million) in back taxes owed by churches and international bodies with property in the city…

Pope emeritus Benedict: ‘I am on a pilgrimage towards Home’ (Vatican News) Pope emeritus Benedict has sent a short letter to the editor of the Italian news daily Il Corriere della Sera. The pope emeritus was responding to the many inquiries from readers as to how he is spending “this last period of his life.” Noting the “slow decline” of his “physical strength,” Benedict says: “interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home.” The former pontiff admits that “this last stretch of the road” is “at times difficult,” but says, “It is a great grace for me to be surrounded by a love and goodness that I could not have imagined…”



Tags: Syria Israel Jerusalem Pope Benedict XVI human trafficking

6 February 2018
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2014, the Rev. M.J. Joseph leads a service for Dalits in a mud hut in Utter Pradesh, India. This week, India’s bishops have been urged to reach out and do more for those once known as “untouchables.” (photo: John Mathew)

Indian bishops told to do more for ‘untouchables’ (Crux) Bishops in India have been told the Church must “move away from being content with doling out some schemes and programs” for Dalits — those at the bottom of Hinduism’s caste system formerly known as “untouchables” — and work to develop “a deeper understanding of the causes and manifestations of deprivation, discrimination and exclusion of Dalit Christians within the Church, by the larger society and by the State.” Jesuit Father A. Maria Arul Raja, a professor of Religious Studies at the Jesuit Theology Centre in Chennai, spoke about the Church and Dalits at the biennial meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India taking place this week in Bangalore...

Iraq official: Iraqi security forces are relocating refugees (Andalou Agency) An Iraqi lawmaker has accused security forces of forcibly relocating displaced civilians to their areas in northern and western Iraq. Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Monday, Raad al-Dahlaki, head of a parliamentary committee on displaced civilians, said the Baghdad Operations Command will close a refugee camp in western Baghdad by mid-February...

Syria, Russia escalate attacks in Syria (Al Jazeera) At least 40 people have been killed in Syrian and Russian air attacks in Eastern Ghouta near the capital, Damascus. Syria’s government has also deployed new anti-aircraft missiles to the front lines in Aleppo and Idlib, where it is battling rebel fighters...

Medical centers in Gaza forced to cease work due to lack of electricity, fuel (Middle East Monitor) The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza yesterday announced the suspension of operations in 16 hospitals and healthcare centers across the Gaza Strip due to the sever lack of electricity and fuel, Quds Press reported. Speaking to the news site, Spokesman of the Ministry of Health Ashraf Al-Qidra said: “Electricity generators in three more healthcare centers in Gaza stopped working; therefore, operations were suspended...”

Archaeologists uncover ancient church in Turkey (Christian Today) What’s believed to be one of the earliest churches in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, has been discovered during an archaeological dig in the Black Sea province of Karabük’s Eskipazar district. The excavation at the ancient city of Hadrianapolis, which now lies buried beneath Eskipazar, 160km north of Ankara, has uncovered a 1,500-year-old structure which could unlock secrets to monasteries thought to have existed in the town...

U.S., Ethiopia launch program to preserve historic church (EthioSports.com) U.S. Ambassador Michael RaynorEthi and Minister for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Hirut Woldemariam, jointly launched a new project for the preservation of Bete Golgotha Mikael Church in Lalibela, on Saturday, 3 February 2018. Since 2003, the U.S Embassy has supported the renovation of nine historical heritages throughout Ethiopia, including most recently the restoration of Bete Gabriel Rafael in Lalibela...



5 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, shown in this file photo from 2015, on Sunday encouraged bishops in India to urge the faithful to become fully Indian and Christian. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)

Church in India urges faithful to become fully Indian, Christian (DaijiWorld.com) Inaugurating the 30th Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (C.C.B.I.) of the Latin Church, here on Sunday 4 February, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of Conference of Catholic Bishops of India and archbishop of Mumbai, exhorted the bishops in India to urge the faithful to become fully Indian and fully Christian…

Palestinians slam Jerusalem move to end tax breaks for churches, UN properties (Times of Israel) Palestinians on Sunday strongly denounced an Israeli decision to collect taxes from churches and United Nations agencies in Jerusalem, saying the move was aimed at “emptying” the city of its Arab residents and Christian holy sites…

Ethiopia launches job creation project for refugees, returnees (Ethiopian News Agency) A job creation project, which aims at supporting Ethiopian returnees and Eritrean refugees, was launched by the European Union Trust Fund for Africa and Ethiopian Government. The two-year project benefits 1,500 potential returnees and 200 Eritrean refugees. The project areas in Addis Ababa are Arada, Addis Ketema, Kirkos, and Yeka sub-cities, while the value chain areas are leather construction and metal, it was indicated…

Kurds express shock over ‘mutilated’ female fighter video (Vatican News) In one of the most gruesome episodes of the conflict, Kurds in Syria have accused Turkish-backed rebels of mutilating the body of a female Kurdish fighter, then posting the footage online. The victim, a member of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit — known as YPG — has been identified as Barin Kobani. She took part in a recent operation to drive the so-called Islamic State from areas in northern Syria…

Eagles fans in Jerusalem flying high after Super Bowl win (The Jerusalem Post) As is the tradition, American sports fans congregated at, Mike’s Place, in the heart of the capital, which hosted several hundred diehard sports fans for Super Bowl LII…



2 February 2018
Greg Kandra




A man prays amid destroyed buildings after several airstrikes on 9 January in Hamoria, Syria. The U.S. has accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people.
(photo: CNS/Mohammed Badra, EPA)


U.S. accuses Syria of chemical weapons use (Al Jazeera) The United States has accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people. U.S. State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that reports of chlorine gas being used against civilians in Eastern Ghouta were “very concerning”...

Letter in India calls for the government to stop hate crimes against minorities (Fides) In an open letter, public officials, personalities from Indian culture and intellectuals have expressed “Deep concern for the continuous episodes of senseless violence in the country, especially those that target minorities,” and also “for the weak response of law enforcement agencies and institutions”...

Ethiopia lifts ban on domestic workers moving overseas (AFP) Ethiopia has lifted a ban on domestic workers moving overseas after passing a new law to guard against ill-treatment, a government official said Thursday. Africa’s second-most populous country instituted the ban five years ago following reports of abuse, and complaints that employment agencies lured Ethiopians into working abroad in illegal and appalling conditions...

Middle East Council of Churches appoints acting Secretary General (Fides) The Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches has appointed Professor Souraya Bechealany as Acting Secretary General of the ecumenical body. Souraya Bechealany takes the place of Father Michel Jalkh, who was appointed Rector of Antonine University. The choice, approved unanimously, was announced at the end of the meeting of the Executive Committee hosted in Lebanon by Antonine University, in the district of Baabda in the southern part of Beirut...

Church celebrates World Day of Consecrated Life (Vatican News) Pope Francis celebrates the liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica on Friday with thousands of religious and members of Societies of Apostolic life. The announcement for this event contained the following reflection from the Holy Father: “A vocation is a gift we have received from the Lord, who fixed his gaze on us and called us, calling us to follow him in the consecrated life”...







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