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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
3 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Greek Orthodox nun in Maaloula’s Monastery of St. Tekla prays beside an icon of the site’s patron saint. It was recently reported that an Islamist group has taken 12 sisters from this monastery hostage. As you keep them in your prayers, click here to read more about this imperiled religious community. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Patriarch Gregory III prays for the ‘true martyrs in Maaloula’ (Fides) “We are determined to remain in this blessed land even at the cost of martyrdom and martyrdom of blood. This has already happened to some of our faithful, such as the three men from Maaloula,” said Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III, referring to those killed in recent sectarian violence. “They are true martyrs killed for refusing to renounce their faith.” The patriarch expressed strong concern regarding the new invasion of the Christian village of Maalula by armed Islamist groups, who terrorized the population and took hostage 12 Orthodox nuns in the Monastery of St. Tekla…

Syrian aircraft kill 50 in northern rebel town (Washington Post) Syrian government helicopters dropped barrels full of explosives on a rebel-held town near the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least 50 people in two separate attacks over the weekend, activists said Sunday. The shelling Sunday hit near a bakery in the town of Al Bab, located east of Aleppo, killing at least 24 people, said Rami Abdurrahman of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Akram al Halabi, a rebel spokesman based in nearby in Aleppo…

Survey: Corruption worsens in world’s conflict areas (Los Angeles Times) Some of the world’s most tumultuous countries suffered setbacks this year in the fight against corruption, with civil war-torn Syria among the pack of nations increasingly at the mercy of bribe-takers and influence-peddlers, Transparency International reported Tuesday in its annual corruption survey. The assessments of public-sector corruption for each country are based on review of independent experts from 112 institutions, Transparency International explained in its report on methodology…

Caritas to launch global wave of prayer to end hunger (Caritas) The Caritas confederation will launch a global “wave of prayer” to promote an end to world hunger on 10 December, to mark the beginning of a new anti-hunger campaign. Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, says the problem is not one of production. “There is enough food to feed the planet," he says, adding that with enough support, it could be possible to end hunger as soon as 2025. Pope Francis also offers his blessing and support to the campaign in a five-minute video message to be released on the day of the launch…

Egypt constitution amendments enshrine military power (Al Jazeera) Extensive amendments to the constitution adopted under Egypt’s ousted president give the military more privileges, enshrining its place as the nation’s most powerful institution and source of real power while removing parts that liberals feared set the stage for the creation of an Islamic state. One key clause states that for the next two presidential terms the armed forces will enjoy the exclusive right of naming the defense minister, an arrangement that gives the military autonomy above any civilian oversight and leaves the power of the president uncertain. The charter does not say how the post will be filled following that eight-year transitional period…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Hunger

2 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this late-October photo, a Palestinian migrant from Syria whose daughter drowned throws flowers into the sea during a commemorative service at Valletta’s Grand Harbor in Malta. (photo: CNS/Darrin Zammit Lupi, Reuters)

Out of Syria, into a European maze (New York Times) The Syrian exodus has become one of the gravest global refugee crises of recent decades. More than two million people have fled Syria’s civil war, most resettling in neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. But since this summer, refugees have also started pouring into Europe in what became for many weeks a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Over five months, Italy’s Coast Guard rescued thousands of Syrians, even as hundreds of other migrants, including many Syrians, died in two major shipwrecks in October. For many, reaching Europe was merely the beginning of another difficult journey. Having risked their lives in hopes of settling in prospering Northern Europe, many Syrians found themselves trapped in the south, living illegally in Italy, hiding from the police, as they tried to sneak past border guards and travel north to apply for asylum…

Pope Francis welcomes Melkite Greek Catholic pilgrims (Vatican Radio) On Saturday, Pope Francis received a group of Melkite Greek Catholics visiting Rome on a pilgrimage. The pope told the pilgrims that his thoughts are with the suffering in Syria, and that his prayers are with those who have lost their lives and their loved ones. “We firmly believe in the strength of prayer and reconciliation”, he said, “and we renew our heartfelt appeal to those responsible” to bring an end to the violence. “Through dialogue let them find just and lasting solutions to a conflict that has already wrought too much destruction…”

Netanyahu holds first meeting with Pope Francis (Jerusalem Post) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Pope Francis in a 25-minute closed-door meeting Monday, with a host of political and religious issues on the agenda as well as a formal invitation for the pontiff to visit the Holy Land next year. It was the first time the two leaders met face to face, and they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian civil war, the welfare of Christians in Israel, as well as the pope’s expected visit to Israel…

West Bank violence jumps, but this time it’s more personal (Washington Post) A retired Israeli military officer was beaten to death with a pickax in his front yard. A Palestinian man was fatally shot after ramming his tractor into an Israeli army gate. These and other enigmatic, seemingly unrelated killings, all originating in the West Bank, have left four Israelis and at least 24 Palestinians dead this year — a notable increase from last year. The jump in violence follows the relative calm of 2012, which was one of the least-deadly years in decades for Israelis. It comes as stalled peace talks give rise to concerns about more killings to come…

20 arrested in Minya after deadly violence (Daily News Egypt) Security forces have arrested 20 people in the governorate of Minya after deadly violence in several villages left five people dead and dozens injured. The Security Directorate of Minya announced arrests in two neighboring villages, the predominantly Coptic Nazlet Ebeid and the predominantly Muslim Al Hawarta. A feud over a piece of land between residents turned violent last week and left four people dead…

Patriarch Kirill concerned about exodus of Christians from Iraq (Voice of Russia) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill expressed his concern for the Christian population of Iraq during a meeting with the Iraqi ambassador to Russia. “We are deeply convinced that Iraq should remain a unified state, civil accord should be restored and there should be no outside influence,” he said…

Ukrainian protesters find refuge from police in Kiev monastery (Reuters) Around 100 Ukrainian pro-European Union protesters took refuge from police batons and biting cold on Saturday inside the walls of a central Kiev monastery. With a barricade of benches pushed up against a gate to keep police out, protesters — who had rallied against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to reject a pact with the European Union — checked their wounds in the pre-dawn light. “They gave us tea to warm us up, told us to keep our spirits strong and told us not to fight evil with evil,” said Roman Tsado, 25, a native of Kiev, who said police beat him on his legs as they cleared the pro-E.U. rally. “I don’t go to church much, only to escape from the powers of evil,” said Tsado, laughing. According to RISU, Ukrainian church leaders — including Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Kievan Patriarchate — have condemned the brutal police response to protesters…

Cardinal Gracias celebrates the start of Advent among Dharavi’s poor (AsiaNews) Together with Caritas India, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, has launched a Christmas campaign to raise awareness of the city’s poor. The initiative was launched with a visit to the largest slum in India and Asia, home to hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. The cardinal recalled Pope Francis, who “praised the courage of the poor, urging society to welcome them with love and compassion…”



Tags: India Egypt Ukraine Refugees Israeli-Palestinian conflict

27 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from late September, Syrian refugees stand outside in Beirut with papers to present to officials with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for registration. (photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)

Pontifical conference focuses on Syrian refugee children in Lebanon (VIS) This morning, in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the Healthcare Mission for Syrian Child Refugees in Lebanon, promoted by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital and Caritas Lebanon. “Helping the Syrian population, regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief, is the most direct way of contributing to peace-building and the edification of a society open to all its different members,” said Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. Cardinal Sarah explained that Pope Francis’ words inspired this project, in the hope that “these tragedies may never be repeated…”

Pax Christi International: Europe must not close its doors to Syrian refugees (Fides) In an urgent appeal to the leaders of both sides of the conflict, Pax Christi International asks that the borders remain open, that humanitarian relief may reach the besieged population unhindered. Pax Christi International calls on the urgent need for a ceasefire to ensure humanitarian access to the besieged areas before the negotiations begin…

Syrian women increasingly targeted by violence (Al Jazeera) Syrian women are increasingly targeted with violence and sexual assault by armed groups in the civil war between rebel groups and the government of President Bashar al Assad, according to a new report. The Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network, a network of more than 80 human rights organizations in more than 30 countries in Europe and the Mediterranean, released a report on Monday detailing the violence experienced by Syrian women in 2012 and 2013, based on firsthand testimonies or accounts from their families or aid workers…

Polio spreads to Damascus and Aleppo (Al Jazeera) The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that additional polio cases had been confirmed in two new areas of Syria, including near Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo near Turkey. “In addition to 15 polio cases in Deir Ezzor province, Syria, two additional cases have been confirmed, one each in rural Damascus and Aleppo,” the organization said on its Twitter account…

Pope invites Ukrainian Greek Catholic faithful to brotherly communion (VIS) At the end of the catechesis at today’s general audience, the Holy Father greeted Ukrainian pilgrims, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and the bishops and faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Eastern Catholic pilgrims came to Rome to venerate the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul at the end of the Year of Faith, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the translation of the relics of St. Josaphat to St. Peter’s Basilica. For this reason, the reading preceding the catechesis was given in Ukrainian. “The example of St. Josaphat, who gave his life for the Lord Jesus and for the unity of the Church, represents for all of us an invitation to commit ourselves every day to communion with our brothers,” said Pope Francis…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

26 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




More than 10 percent of those killed in the Syrian conflict were children. In this video, children are describing life in Jobar, a district of Damascus. Suddenly, a shell hits the area. Stefanie Dekker reports. (video: Al Jazeera)

Pope receives President Putin: An end to the violence in Syria is urgent (VIS) Yesterday afternoon Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, was received in audience by Pope Francis. President Putin subsequently went on to meet with the secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by the secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti. During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good existing bilateral relations, and the parties focused on various questions of common interest, especially in relation to the life of the Catholic community in Russia. Furthermore, special attention was paid to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and the grave situation in Syria…

Proposals seek to preserve Christian demographic balance in parts of Iraq (Fides) A recent conference focusing on the demographic balance of historically Christian areas of Iraq concluded with the proposal of a package of concrete demands to address this emergency. In particular, the organization calls for the creation of a joint committee to develop and implement measures designed to encourage the return of native Christian families who left the region and to protect the Christians in the area of Mosul, still exposed to bullying and targeted violence…

Catholic Church official in Egypt urges Christians to remain in country (Catholic Sentinel) Egypt’s Christians should stay in their country and help it progress instead of taking “the easy way” of emigrating abroad, said a senior member of the country’s Catholic Church. The Rev. Rafic Greiche, head of the Catholic Church press office in Egypt, expressed concern to Catholic News Service on 20 November that hundreds of thousands of Christians have left for other countries since 2011, when a popular revolution ended the nearly 30-year secular rule of former autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak…

Egypt police fire water cannons on protesters testing new law (Los Angeles Times) Egypt’s tough new anti-protest law got its first major test Tuesday when dozens of demonstrators gathered in the capital to protest harsh police tactics — and were met with drenching water-cannon blasts. The anti-protest measure, which took effect Sunday, forbids spontaneous street demonstrations, which have been a prominent feature of public life here since the enormous 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, the autocratic longtime president…

Bkerke denies patriarch resigning from Maronite church (Daily Star Lebanon) Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai does not plan to quit his post, a church representative said Tuesday. Bkerke, the seat of the Maronite Church, dismissed allegations that its patriarch will resign in order to head the Vatican Synod in the Middle East following rumors that Pope Francis denied renewal of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri’s term…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Iraqi Christians Egypt's Christians

25 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




More than four months have passed since the death of Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan Kiril of Varna and Veliki Preslav, and the matter of his permanent successor has yet to be settled. A memorial service, pictured above, was held on 5 October. (photo: Bulgarian Orthodox Church)

Bulgarian Orthodox Church cancels Varna metropolitan election (Novinite) The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has decided to cancel the first round of the vote for metropolitan bishop of Varna and Veliki Preslav. The decision comes after representatives of both clergy and laity said they have grounds to believe that the election was rigged…

Pope Francis greets Ukrainian pilgrims (Vatican Radio) On Monday, Pope Francis greeted Ukrainian pilgrims celebrating the 50th anniversary of the transition of the relics of St. Josaphat to St. Peter’s Basilica. The delegation was led by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. St. Josaphat was a Ukrainian monk who later became an archbishop. He was martyred in 1623. “May the memory of this holy martyr speak of the communion of saints, the communion of life between all those who belong to Christ,” said Pope Francis…

Putin to meet Pope Francis as church relations warm (Moscow Times) President Vladimir Putin met with Pope Francis at the Vatican today as part of his state visit to Italy, an encounter many hope helped to improve relations between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches. Since the election of Pope Francis to head the Vatican in March, there have been signs that the two churches are eager to ease the tensions that have dominated their relations in recent decades and that date back all the way to the Great Schism of 1054…

Egyptians unite to repair houses of worship (Eurasia Review) Over the past four months, about 70 Coptic churches have been attacked and burned, according to government statistics. A number of mosques also have been attacked, mainly following the dispersal of the Rabea al Adawiyah and al Nahda sit-ins in August. This prompted Beit al Aela al Misriyah, a nongovernmental organisation, to launch an initiative to renovate houses of worship damaged in recent acts of violence with support from the government, Al Azhar, the Coptic Church and private individuals and businesses. The initiative, launched on 31 October, aims to promote tolerance and encourages all Egyptians to help repair damaged houses of worship, the organization said…

Coptic Orthodox representative protests constitution committee (Egypt Independent) Coptic Orthodox Bishop Paula of Tanta, representing his church within the 50-member committee tasked with amending the constitution, has threatened to withdraw for a second time — in protest against the drafting process. “Article 219 was the reason for quitting the Constitutional Assembly in 2012. It is going to be the reason also for quitting the 50-member committee in 2013,” he said…

Egypt law aims to curb protest (Christian Science Monitor) Egypt’s interim president issued a new law regulating protests that has been heavily criticized by rights groups for being overly restrictive, including allowing police to ban demonstrations without justification. The law is one of several recently proposed by the government that would give authorities broad discretion to shut down dissent, leading to charges that interim military-backed government is seeking to clamp down on freedoms. While the final law is not yet published, an earlier draft of the protest law would require those organizing demonstrations — or even open meetings with more than 10 people — to seek police approval three working days before, and would give police carte blanche to deny approval…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Pilgrimage/pilgrims Coptic Orthodox Church Bulgarian Orthodox Church

22 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis attends a meeting with the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic churches in Syria, Iraq and and other parts of the Middle East, at the Vatican on 21 November. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Eastern Catholic churches committed to interreligious dialogue (VIS) The Congregation for the Eastern Churches today concluded its plenary session, held from 19 to 22 November, which focused on the balance of conciliar ideas regarding the Eastern churches 50 years after Vatican Council II. Appreciation was expressed for the beauty of conciliar ecclesiology and the value of diversity in unity, also underlining that the recognition of the apostolic origin is a theological and juridical affirmation…

Strife fuels polio’s return to Middle East (Der Spiegel) Polio is making a comeback in a decimated part of Syria, but the delicate politics of the war are making vaccination campaigns difficult. “We have been warning them for more than a month that polio is spreading, but [the WHO] refuse[s] to send the vaccine!” said Dr. Khalid Milaji, a Syrian doctor and part of the Polio Control Task Force, a group trying to rein in a new polio epidemic. And yet, for weeks, WHO had blocked a vaccination campaign aimed at containing what is probably the most dangerous outbreak in years, in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. The United Nations organization even tried to stop the analysis of virus samples. The reason: WHO has a policy of cooperating exclusively with the government in Damascus, even in times of war, despite the fact that the central government has long since given up on Deir Ezzor…

As Syrian war grinds on, a new flock of refugees takes flight (New York Times) Syria’s pigeon collectors, hamemati as they are known back home, are among the most ardent in the Arab world. They do not breed or race them. They will trade and sell them, but mostly they just keep them as treasured pets. So it comes as little surprise that some have gone to great lengths to pursue their hobby in exile, especially since no one expects Syria’s two-and-a-half-year civil war to end anytime soon…

Jordanian official asks heads of churches to promote pilgrimages (Fides) Nidal Katamine, the Jordanian minister of tourism, has issued a strong appeal to the heads of local churches to promote and concretely support pilgrimages to holy sites in Jordan. The invitation was expressed during an ad hoc meeting convened in Amman, at the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Archepachy…

Ecumenical prayer across India for justice and reconciliation (Fides) Over 6,000 churches across India have come together to coordinate a simultaneous, ecumenical prayer service on 30 November. “We call on all Christians in the nation to join in this prayer to bless the nation,” said Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi, president of the organizing committee of prayer. The idea of a national ecumenical prayer was founded in 2012 by a meeting between different Indian Christians leaders…

A look at the West Bank’s Monastery of St. George (Huffington Post) Hiding in folds of the Judean Desert are ancient monasteries which, since ancient times, have given hermits the desolation of their dreams. Orthodox Christians — whether from Palestine, Greece, Russia, or Ethiopia — enliven these monasteries today, as they have since the sixth century. The dramatically set Monastery of St. George welcomes pilgrims and tourists alike. For 15 centuries, the faithful have ventured to this spot, hiked into the ravine, quenched their thirst, and nourished their soul…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Jordan Ecumenism Health Care Congregation for Eastern Churches

21 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem waves to the crowd upon his arrival for the International Day of Faith Mass on Mount Precipice in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth on 17 November. The Mass celebrated the Year of Faith declared by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2012. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Faithful from across the globe gather in Nazareth for Year of Faith end (CNS) Using Abraham from the Old Testament and Mary from the New Testament as role models, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal extolled the power of faith in a special Mass marking the conclusion of the Year of Faith. Some 7,000 local Catholics and international pilgrims gathered on Mount Precipice, overlooking the city of Nazareth, on 17 November. The patriarch said he was confident that the prayers and fasting for Syria called for by Pope Francis in September had contributed to the defeat of those advocating the option of war in that conflict. Though Christians in the Middle East have been a part of the great suffering of the region, they must remain strong, never losing faith, he said…

Pope Francis appeals for religious liberty in Middle East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed for universal respect of the basic right to religious liberty on Thursday, especially in lands where Christian communities constitute struggling minorities. The call came in the second of two related addresses to the patriarchs and major archbishops of Eastern churches, who are here in Rome this week for the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, and to the full body of participants in the assembly. In his remarks to the church heads, Pope Francis thanked his brothers for their visit, saying their coming together gives him the opportunity to renew his esteem for the spiritual patrimony of Eastern Christianity…

Ukrainian church leader discusses ‘ecumenism from the bottom up’ (Vatican Insider) “We cannot leave ecumenism in the hands of diplomats, politicians or theologians alone: we need to preach it in the parishes,” said His Beatitude Svjatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic. Of conditions in Ukraine, he says: “Our situation is a very complex one and our Christianity is very fragmented: only we Catholics are present here with three churches sui iuris. … We are trying to be witnesses of unity amongst ourselves above all. … Many Christians are tired of divisions and are asking for unity. There is a growing ecumenism from the bottom up…”

Flight of Iraq Christians resumes amid surge of unrest (France24) The patriarch of the Iraq-based Chaldean church, due to join other Middle Eastern Christian leaders at a meeting with Pope Francis this week, has urged Christians to stay and spoken out against Western countries offering visas to the rapidly shrinking minority. But many still say they have no choice, as their tenuous optimism after a brief improvement in security starting in 2008 has been dashed by a surge in bloodshed this year…

Turkey and Greece feud over Haghia Sophia (Business Standard) Turkey and Greece were locked today in a war of words over the possible conversion of Haghia Sophia, one of Istanbul’s most stunning landmarks, into a mosque. The feud over the 1,476-year-old World Heritage site is the latest to erupt between the two neighbors over religion. Greece reacted furiously to remarks by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc that he hoped to change the status of Haghia Sophia, which is now a museum. “Recurrent statements made by high ranking Turkish officials about converting Byzantine Christian churches into mosques are offending the religious feeling of millions of Christians,” the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement. But Turkey bluntly retorted today that it has “nothing to learn” from Greece about freedom of religion…



Tags: Pope Francis Iraqi Christians Christian Unity Patriarch Fouad Twal Haghia Sophia

20 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from May, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III receives Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, in the patriarchal residence in Raboué, north of Beirut. (photo: Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate)

Pope to meet with patriarchs of Eastern churches (Middle East Online) Pope Francis is meeting with the patriarchs of the Eastern churches to discuss the future of Christians in the Middle East, the Catholic Church’s role in Arab countries, its relations with the Orthodox Church and the problems of stability in the region. Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter I, Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis I, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III, Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III and Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX are expected at the three-day meeting that will focus on the Eastern churches in the 50 years since Vatican II. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, will lead the meeting…

Melkite patriarch urges Christians to stay in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) Patriarch Gregory III of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church has called on his fellow Christians to stay in Syria, despite the brutal conflict raging in the country. “I say to my children, stay in your country, the future will be difficult, but it will be better, God willing,” the Syrian patriarch told AFP. “I say to the European countries that want to help, help people … but don’t encourage people to emigrate…”

Carrying weapons the new norm for Iraqi youth (Al Monitor) Many young Iraqis have started carrying knives and other bladed weapons whenever they leave their homes, to the extent that it has become an almost indispensable part of their persons. That is how Barea Saeed, 18, from Baghdad described it to Al Monitor; he claims to feel weak and threatened whenever he finds himself without a knife in hand. While most young Iraqis claim that they have no intention of using the weapons in their possession except as a matter of last resort, the day-to-day reality of street stabbings and proliferating knife wounds tells a different story…

Iraqi refugees work to realize the American dream (Al Arabiya) The Iraqi diaspora is now dispersed throughout the world, with the United States accepting well over 90,000 Iraqi refugees since 2003. Many refugees sent to the United States are moving to Dearborn, Michigan, largely due to the fact that there is a large Lebanese community establishment there, as well as a “newer” Iraqi immigrant base that came to the United States in the early 1990s after the first Gulf War.

Attacks on Egyptian military could signal nascent insurgency (Christian Science Monitor) Ten Egyptian soldiers were killed after a car bomb exploded next to their bus in the northern Sinai Peninsula today. The number of attacks in the Sinai has increased since the July 3 military coup that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi, raising concerns that sporadic attacks will flare into a sustained insurgency. More than 100 Egyptian security forces have been killed in the Sinai since Mr. Morsi’s removal, according to the BBC…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Refugees Christian Unity Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch

19 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




During the Mass to conclude the Year of Faith, Pope Francis will hand out 35 hard copies of his first apostolic exhortation. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis to release first apostolic exhortation (Catholic News Agency) The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis will officially deliver his first apostolic exhortation to coincide with the end of the Year of Faith. During an 18 November press conference, the Holy See revealed that the title of the new document is “Evangelii Gaudium,” or “The Joy of the Gospel,” which will be publicly proclaimed by the pope during the closing Mass for the Year of Faith on Sunday, 24 November. The exhortation is a concluding document of last year’s Synod of Bishops, which centered on the theme of “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith…”

Lebanon blasts hit Iran’s embassy in Beirut (BBC) At least 22 people have been killed and more than 140 injured in a double suicide bombing outside the Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut. The Sunni jihadist group Abdullah Azzam Brigades said it was behind the attack. The Iranian ambassador in Beirut had earlier confirmed the death of Ebrahim Ansari, Iran’s cultural attaché, saying it was not clear if he had been in the embassy itself or one of the residential buildings nearby. However, the Iranian foreign ministry now says he is alive…

Suicide bombing in Beirut; sectarian violence plaguing the Middle East (Fides) Paul Karam, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, responded to the bombing in Beirut with the following statement: “Unfortunately, today’s bombing is not an isolated incident. Sectarian violence serves a purpose, and wants to set fire in order to destabilize the entire Middle East. For their delirious plots they do not have any qualms about killing children who go to school, or adults who go to work or return home. As Christians, we share the pain of our people, and we keep saying that in no way can similar acts of terror seek justification…”

Syria fighting in Qalamoun triggers new exodus to Lebanon (Washington Post) A new Syrian offensive in the mountainous terrain bordering Lebanon has triggered a fresh exodus of thousands of Syrians into a country already burdened by the largest number of refugees in the region, United Nations officials said Sunday. A thousand families sought shelter between Friday and Sunday in the eastern Lebanese town of Arsal after government forces attacked their villages in Syria, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees…

Aid workers struggle to get polio vaccine to Syrians (Christian Science Monitor) Syria was declared polio free in 1999. But with at least 10 recent confirmed cases of the paralyzing virus, international health workers are worried about a regional outbreak of the virus, particularly given the constant flow of Syrians to neighboring countries. Before the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, the vaccination rate in Syria was above 90 percent, bolstered by a relatively strong public health system. But after almost three years of violent and destructive civil conflict, that figure has dropped to 68 percent…

Coptic Orthodox Church names three new bishops (OCP Media Network) Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II installed three new bishops on Sunday, 17 November, at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. Two bishops will serve in Egypt; the third will preside over the newly formed Eparchy of New York and New England in the United States…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Lebanon Refugees Beirut

18 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from September, a Syrian refugee boy flashes a peace sign along the border in Kilis, Turkey. (photo: CNS/Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)

Syrian Alawites hope for change in Turkey (Al Monitor) Syrian Alawite refugees face an added layer of difficulty in Turkey, particularly because they are Alawites. Common observations include issues such as different districts asking them to evacuate parks and mosques turning down their pleas for shelter. A frequent complaint by the refugees is that mosques charge them to use the bathroom. “Even Turkish Alawite doctors, teachers, translators and other civil servants assigned to attend the Syrian refugee camps have faced strong opposition from the camp’s Sunni residents,” said Bereket Kar, an Alawite activist and pundit from the Hatay province of southern Turkey…

Lebanon seeks to establish refugee camps in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Monday Lebanon is looking forward, with the help of the United Nations, to the establishment of Syrian refugee camps inside Syria. Mr. Mikati also revealed that Lebanese authorities have adopted “new measures” to make border control between Lebanon and Syria more effective. He did not give further details…

Syrian tragedy plays out on Jordan’s streets (Al Monitor) Of the 550,000 Syrians in Jordan, 430,000 reside in urban areas like Amman, Zarqa and Mafraq, or in villages near the borders. Middle-class citizens try to find a normal job, and the ones who can afford it — mainly richer entrepreneurs — move their businesses from Damascus to the Jordanian capital. Coming from the war, they all have a tale of loss. Most of the refugees who try to assimilate into Jordanian society have a hard time paying for rent, food and other living expenses. Living in Jordan is “extremely expensive,” Syrians complain, and many are unemployed. Registered refugees receive monthly cash allowances and food coupons from the United Nations…

Iraqi Jewish documents at the U.S. National Archives (New York Times) Books and manuscripts found in a flooded basement of Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters are now on display for the first time at the National Archives. They are ragged, warped, torn and stained, and that is after extensive restoration. This new exhibition, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” presents just 24 artifacts (and some reproductions) selected from 2,700 volumes and tens of thousands of documents the American military found submerged in four feet of fetid water in the Mukhabarat, Iraq’s intelligence building…

Vatican-supported interreligious forum opens in Vienna (Vatican Radio) The first-ever Global Forum of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue opens Monday morning in Vienna, Austria. Known by its acronym, KAICIID, the center is an international organization recognized by the United Nations, of which the Holy See is a founding observer. The president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, is slated to be among the speakers at Monday morning’s general assembly…

Chaldean patriarch: Government and religious leaders must unite Iraq (AsiaNews) In a speech before the Iraqi parliament on the occasion of Human Rights Day, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I said the country’s security situation has “deteriorated”; sectarian divisions are becoming more pronounced, while “regional and international” powers feed the growing fractures…



Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Turkey Refugee Camps





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