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




People enter the St. Simon Monastery 9 October to attend an event to commemorate the second anniversary of the clashes in Cairo’s Maspero Square, where 30 Christians were killed and more than 320 injured by security forces during a protest against discrimination. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

Two years after the massacre at Maspero, Copts still waiting for justice (Fides) On the second anniversary of the massacre of Maspero, which on 9 October 2011 saw dozens of Copts massacred by the departments of the Egyptian army, the Coptic community organized a vigil in Cairo with candles. The participants in the vigil yesterday showed photos of the victims and denounced again the perpetrators, pointing the finger at former General Marshal Hussein Tantawi and senior representatives of the army then. After the vigil, protesters tried to reach Tahrir Square in procession, but their attempt was prevented by army units that dispersed the demonstration by resorting to tear gas…

In Egypt, a campaign to promote an ‘Egyptian Islam’ (Washington Post) On a recent Friday, Egyptian officials dispatched an Islamic preacher named Mustafa Nawareg to a mosque full of angry people — distraught relatives and friends of demonstrators killed by security forces. It was a crowd used to hearing fiery sermons that called the dead “martyrs” and exhorted followers to take to the streets. But now the crowd would hear from Nawareg, who was sent there by the government to “correct the fallacies of extremist thought.” It took about five minutes for the shoes to start flying. “Come down from your stage, you infidel!” yelled a man as the crowd surged toward Nawareg. He felt hands clasp his neck before he managed to escape. Nawareg’s sermon was part of a campaign by Egypt’s military-backed government to “standardize religious discourse” and promote what authorities describe as the true “Egyptian Islam.” But critics say the effort could add fuel to a violent backlash that has included a suicide bombing in the heart of Cairo and regular attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula…

Orthodox Coptic bishop addresses bishops at plenary (B.C. Catholic) Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Mina of the Eparchy of Mississauga, Vancouver, shared the plight of Copts and other Christians in Egypt with Canada’s Catholic Bishops on 23 September. “Living in Canada and experiencing freedom of religion is something people take for granted,” Mina told the more than 80 bishops gathered at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (C.C.C.B.) annual plenary here. “It is my pleasure to clarify for your graces reality of events taking place in Egypt at this time…”

Christian graves in Jerusalem still being vandalized (Washington Post) Christian leaders in Israel are up in arms over what they say is a string of relentless attacks on church properties and religious sites — most recently the desecration of a historic Protestant cemetery where vandals toppled stone crosses from graves and bludgeoned them to pieces. The attack in the Protestant Cemetery of Mount Zion, one of Jerusalem’s most important historic graveyards, has struck a particularly sensitive nerve because some of the damaged graves belong to famous figures from the 19th and 20th centuries, a key period in Jerusalem’s history. Among them are a German diplomat, the founder of an orphanage who was a significant contributor to modernizing the city, and a relative of the owners of a prominent hotel…

Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate hosts theological conference (Basilica News Agency) On 3 October 2013, Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel opened the International Theological Congress, an assembly joining representatives of state institutions, of hierarchs, and other participants from around the world. The conference will focus on the work of the late Rev. Dumitru Staniloae, a Romanian Orthodox priest, theologian and professor. “The role of the theologian is to emphasize spiritual virtues. I only want to underline the fact that Father Staniloae related the rationalist Occident to the contemplative Occident. Today, Father Staniloae is not only the famous Romanian theologian — he is a European who offers our country full European vocation and individualizes us as a nation,” said Victor Opaschi, Romania’s minister of religious affairs…



Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Jerusalem Coptic Orthodox Church Romanian Orthodox Church

9 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis greets New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and chair of CNEWA’s board, at the Vatican on 7 October. Leaders of the U.S.C.C.B. were at the Vatican for an annual meeting. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

Cardinal Dolan reflects on meeting with Pope Francis (Vatican Radio) Of their half hour meeting with the pope, Cardinal Dolan said: “We conveyed to him the love and the admiration and the esteem and gratitude of the Catholic people of the United States, and indeed of the people of the United States and especially the bishops. We had spoken about a beautiful new sense of a freshness and creativity within the church that’s thanks to his providential leadership.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan says last week’s shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa, in which hundreds of African migrants died, continues to bring tears to the pope’s eyes…

Pope Francis urges prayer for peace in embattled regions (VIS) In his greetings in various languages following today’s catechesis, the pope addressed with special affection the bishops from Ethiopia and Eritrea, reiterating his closeness to them “in prayer and in suffering for the many sons of their land who lost their lives in the tragedy of Lampedusa.” Pope Francis also recalled, during his greetings to Arabic-speaking faithful Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” delivered a year ago in Lebanon. “I ask you to pray for peace in the Middle East: in Syria, in Iraq, in Egypt, in Lebanon and in the Holy Land, where the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, was born. Pray that the light of Christ reaches all hearts and all places, unto the ends of the earth…”

How the E.U. turns its back on refugees (Der Spiegel) They come seeking refuge, but when asylum seekers cross into the European Union, they often find little compassion. In Greece, they are held in squalid detention camps, while in Italy they often end up on the street. The correspondents of Spiegel Online report on the situation at entry points in various European countries…

Syria fighting continues amid disarmament program (Al Jazeera) Syrian government warplanes bombed rebel positions near a strategic northern town Tuesday, as international inspectors continued to tour production and storage facilities of the country’s chemical-weapons arsenal, activists said. The warfare is a reminder that the agreement to destroy the Assad regime’s unconventional weapons doesn’t address an ongoing civil war that has seen more than 100,000 killed with conventional arms…

World Bank: Israeli restrictions cost Palestinian economy billions (Los Angeles Times) Israeli restrictions in the West Bank cost the struggling Palestinian economy more than $3.4 billion a year, according to a report released by the World Bank on Tuesday. More than half of West Bank lands are largely off-limits to Palestinians, the report said. Increasing access to these lands could boost gross domestic production by as much as 35 percent, generate $800 million in additional annual revenue for the Palestinian Authority, cut its deficit in half and reduce reliance on foreign aid, it said…

Ousted Egyptian president to stand trial next month (Los Angeles Times) Muhammad Morsi, the deposed Egyptian president, will be put on trial next month, the state news agency reported Wednesday. Mr. Morsi, who has been detained since the military forced him from office on 3 July, will face charges of inciting the killing of opponents, an accusation that his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood have called trumped-up…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Israeli-Palestinian conflict Immigration

8 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




For Syrian refugees in Jordan, a new sense of home (New York Times) (slideshow)

Egyptian attacks escalating amid stalemate (New York Times) The lethal conflict between Egypt’s military-backed government and its Islamist opponents escalated on Monday, with an expansion of attacks against government targets, signs that the authorities have failed to secure the streets and that both sides refuse to back down. Three brazen attacks across the country included a drive-by shooting near the Suez Canal that killed six soldiers, a car bomb that killed three police officers and wounded dozens near the Red Sea resorts area, and the first rocket-propelled grenade launched in the struggle, exploding near an elite enclave of the capital and damaging a satellite transmitter…

Life goes on in Damascus, despite civil war (Der Spiegel) During dinners with politicians and professors, or in conversations in the narrow streets of the old city, everyone, without exception, expressed fear of the rebels. They worry that the rebels will be accompanied by fundamentalists, who will bring with them Sharia law. All the people we spoke with said that they distrust the West because the reasoning there is too simplistic and countries there set moral standards they fail to live up to themselves. And most said that while they don’t support Assad, they want to preserve their way of life. “Just look at what’s happening in Egypt and Libya,” said one man…

Christians march to denounce acts of intimidation by extremist settlers (Fides) A spontaneous march of Christians in Jerusalem was held on Monday, 7 October, through the streets of the Holy City to denounce the frequent desecration perpetrated by groups of extremist Jewish settlers against Christian places of worship. A group of more than 100 Christians, starting at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, then walked to Latin Catholic and Anglican cemeteries, desecrated in recent weeks with racist graffiti…

Patriarchs: Let us create a joint committee for dialogue (Fides) Mar Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Church of the East, and Louis Raphael I, patriarch of the Chaldean Church, have come together in agreement regarding the creation of a “joint committee” as a tool to tackle together the difficulties shared by the two sister churches…



Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Violence against Christians Christian Unity

7 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Ecumenical Bartholomew I led the closing celebration of the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, beginning with a solemn doxology, in St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade on 5 October. (photo: Serbian Orthodox Church)

Orthodox Christians mark 1,700th anniversary of Edict of Milan (Yahoo! News) Eight Orthodox Christian leaders, dignitaries from other faiths, politicians and thousands of others on Sunday celebrated the anniversary of the Edict of Milan, which established toleration for Christianity in the Roman Empire 1,700 years ago. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew called in a sermon for more religious freedom and reconciliation, flanked by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, Patriarch Kirill of Russia, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia and their counterparts from Albania, Cyprus, Poland, Slovakia and other smaller Orthodox churches…

Kidnapped Italian Jesuit reported alive in Syria (Vatican Insider) “Father Paolo Dall’Oglio is alive and is being treated well by his kidnappers, who are members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) extremist group,” says anti-regime activist Khalaf Ali Khalaf, reporting on information received from Al Qaeda-affiliated sources close to the extremist group…

Chaldean Patriarchate prohibits unauthorized sale of church property (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans has formally prohibited the sale of land and houses belonging to the patrimony of the church without permission “of the high ecclesiastical authorities.” The restrictive provision was made public in a statement on 5 October and makes explicit reference to the Holy See as a last resort call to grant licenses for the sale of properties belonging to the church…

Dozens killed in clashes as Egyptian identity politics turns violent (Christian Science Monitor) Large crowds gathered nationwide to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel. Supporters of former president Muhammad Morsi, ousted in a 3 July military takeover, also rallied in support of their leader and the democratic process they believe he embodies. In the capital, 30 anti-coup protesters were killed during pitched battles with the security services. Marching through the streets of west Cairo’s Dokki district, protesters shouted “we are not real… all this is photoshopped” in reference to the common refrain that Muslim Brotherhood supporters fabricate attendance numbers for the weekly demonstrations that have followed Mr. Morsi’s ouster…

At least 66 people killed in a day of bloodshed in Iraq (Washington Post) A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims passing through a mainly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad and another detonated his explosives inside a cafe north of the capital, the deadliest of several attacks across Iraq on Saturday that killed at least 66 people. The killings, which also included attacks on journalists and anti-extremist Sunni fighters, are part of the deadliest surge in violence to hit Iraq in five years. The accelerating bloodshed is raising fears that the country is falling back into the spiral of violence that brought it to the edge of civil war in the years after the 2003 United States-led invasion…

Israelis, Palestinians intensify talks despite skepticism (Daily Star Lebanon) Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held a new round of talks on Monday, picking up the tempo of their meetings at the request of the United States in the face of widespread skepticism that they will ever reach a deal. The two sides resumed direct peace negotiations in late July after three years of stalemate and have conducted a series of discussions far from the gaze of the media over recent weeks, without any outward hint of the slightest breakthrough…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Ecumenism Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

4 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 24 September photo, Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians, right, greets Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia at the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin prior to the commencement of the first synod of the Armenian Apostolic Church in six centuries. (photo: Catholicosate of Cilicia)

Armenian Apostolic Church faces modern hurdles (New York Times) As church leaders gathered in Etchmiadzin last week for a rare bishops’ conference, they seemed to be ready to put differences aside as they confronted a new set of challenges: entrenched secularism at home, assimilation of followers in the large Armenian diaspora abroad and general disaffection with organized religion. “The church is in dire need of renewal,” Catholicos Aram I, the leader of the Lebanon-based faction of the church, said in an interview as he strolled across the campus here of the Mother See. “And by renewal, I mean the church has to be responsive to the needs and expectations of the people.” He added, “The church has to respond to the challenges of the present-day world…”

Christians under threat in Syria as Islamist extremists gain influence (Washington Post) When radical Islamists tore down a cross and hoisted a black flag above a church in the northern Syrian city of Raqqah last week, it underscored the increasingly hostile environment for the country’s Christians. Although Syria is majority Sunni Muslim, it is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse countries in the Middle East, home to minorities including Christians, Druze and Shiite-offshoot Alawites and Ismailis. But the country’s conflict, now in its third year, is threatening that tapestry. While the primary front in the war has pitted Sunni against Shiite, Christians are increasingly caught in the firing line…

Muslim Brotherhood protest in Cairo challenges military rule (Al Jazeera) Defying a security crackdown, thousands of supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Muhammad Morsi marched in Cairo Friday toward Rabaa al Adawiya square, the site of their former protest camp, which security forces crushed in August, a Reuters witness said. At least one Muslim Brotherhood supporter died from a gunshot wound in Cairo after clashes broke out Friday in several cities throughout the country at pro-Morsi rallies, according to multiple sources…

Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church holds regular session (Russian Orthodox Church) Patriarch Kirill greeted the Holy Synod members, offered reflections on the 1025th anniversary of Christianization of Kievan Rus and introduced them to the agenda of the session, which focused heavily on pastoral formation and education…

Churches targeted by extremists in Karnataka (Fides) There has been a surge in anti-Christian violence in the state of Karnataka. The Evangelical Fellowship of India, which brings together thousands of evangelical Christian communities, said that religious services and prayer meetings of ecclesial communities over the last two months have been targeted, pastors beaten and Christians arrested. In recent episodes, Hindu fundamentalists attacked and looted a church in Mandya district in Karnataka…



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Russian Orthodox Church Armenian Apostolic Church

3 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Rou’a, 10, from Daraya, plays on a swing with her cousin Abdullah, 2, at an informal refugee settlement in Talabaya in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The camp is home to some 55 families who fled to Lebanon from their homes in Syria. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, Catholic Relief Services)

Flow of refugees destabilizes Lebanon (Der Spiegel) The flood of refugees is destabilizing an already weak and war-torn Lebanon, which borders Syria to the north and the east, and Israel to the south. The front between Sunnis and Shiites runs right through the heart of this tiny state, making Lebanon the focal point of a conflict that threatens to engulf the entire region. The Shiite Hezbollah militia uses Lebanon as a base for its struggle against the “Zionist enemy” — and since this spring, the group has been launching military operations here against the predominantly Sunni rebels in Syria…

Activists on all sides in Egypt feel the chill (Los Angeles Times) In Egypt, where nearly three years of political upheaval first toppled a tyrant, then ushered in and tossed out an Islamist government, and finally propelled a military man to power, activists of all stripes — many of them part of the country’s intellectual elite — are feeling the chill. To some, an increasingly authoritarian political climate is reminiscent of the bad old days under Hosni Mubarak. Back then many of those who dared dissent simply vanished into the maw of the security services, sometimes never to emerge. These days, though, the official dragnet extends far beyond the Brotherhood. Criticizing the army, the mere questioning of government policy, or expressing views that could be construed as sympathetic toward dead and detained Islamist “terrorists” has become a dangerous game…

Syrian Armenians move to disputed territory (AINA) Azerbaijan on Wednesday accused Armenia of resettling Syrian refugees in a disputed territory the two have been fighting over for decades. Azerbaijan’s United Nations ambassador said the rival neighbor had started a “very dangerous process” by moving Syrian Armenians into Nagorny Karabakh. Armenia says it has accepted more than 10,000 ethnic Armenians. But Armenia’s U.N. envoy said claims they have been moved into Nagorny Karabakh are “lies and distortion.” Azerbaijan’s U.N. envoy Agshin Mehdiyev said, in a news conference: “We have information that they already started it — settlement of Syrian refugees in occupied territories — and of course it is a very dangerous process with unpredictable consequences…”

University students in Gaza hit hard by blockade (Al Monitor) The siege surrounding Gaza has affected hundreds of university students. Many studying in universities outside of the strip have been unable to enroll for the new semester because of the closure of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The blockade imposed on Gaza in the last two months has led to deteriorating economic conditions and the unemployment of tens of thousands of workers, the two student councils at Islamic University — male and female students have separate councils — have protested and suspended classes…

Mufti of Russia: Dialogue is the only road to peace in Syria (AsiaNews) The vice president of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Rushan Abbyasov, says we must defend the Christian presence in Syria, and calls for “dialogue and prayer” as a way out of the crisis in Syria. The religious leader condemns both foreign military intervention as well as attacks against Christians in the Middle East…



Tags: Egypt Lebanon Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank Armenia

2 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Eleven-year-old Syrian refugee Mohamad Zarzur, who survived the battle of Idlib, poses for a photo in Kilis, Turkey, in mid-September. He hopes one day to return to a peaceful Syria. (photo: CNS/Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)

Interfaith hospital on Turkish border helps Syrians save themselves (CNS) Two international aid organizations — the German Catholic Malteser International and the Turkish Muslim International Blue Crescent Relief — have come together to launch a 28-bed mobile hospital in the southern Turkey border town where locals say the normal population of 88,000 has nearly doubled with the influx of refugees. The doctors, nurses and support staff at the new hospital, which opened on 13 September, are all Syrian…

Fighting breaks out in another historic Syrian village (Fides) Following the violence in Maaloula, the war has spread to Sednaya, a village in the north of Damascus known for its historical, cultural and religious heritage. Sednaya is characterized by a large presence of churches and monasteries and a local community that speaks Aramaic. The village is under constant threat of Islamist militias that organize raids to terrorize the civilian population…

Beirut: Syrian refugees adapt to makeshift lives (Al Jazeera) The Lebanese government estimates that 1.2 million Syrians have come to Lebanon since the uprising began in March 2011. The refugees span the entire social and economic strata of Syrian society. Some are rich, some are poor; many are from the towns and villages that have been pummeled by government airstrikes and artillery fire. Others have escaped the urban combat in Idlib, Aleppo or the Damascus suburbs. Four refugee families from Syria reveal a cross-section of this emerging society, sharing many concerns…

Syrian schools start new year — a return to some normality for kids (Los Angeles Times) Despite a raging civil war, schools opened last month across the capital and elsewhere in government-controlled swaths of Syria, where officials have long boasted of a comprehensive and free public education system. In Damascus, more than 800 schools opened their doors to about 500,000 students, said Atef Hassan, a veteran teacher and official at the Ministry of Education. Administrators insisted on starting fall classes on time despite the daunting challenges facing Syria’s battered educational infrastructure…

Nearly 1,000 Iraqis killed In September (Boston Herald) Sectarian bloodshed has surged to levels not seen in Iraq since 2008. More than 5,000 people have been killed since April, when a deadly government raid on a Sunni protest camp unleashed a new round of violence that showed Al Qaeda in Iraq is still strong despite years of U.S.-Iraqi offensives against the terror group. At least 979 people — 887 civilians and 92 soldiers and national policemen — were killed in September, a 22 percent increase from the previous month, the United Nations mission in Iraq said Tuesday…



Tags: Iraq Refugees Syrian Civil War Education Health Care

1 October 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis greets a member of an international meeting for peace on 30 September at the Vatican. The pope met with religious, political and cultural leaders who were gathered for an annual dialogue on peace that began in 1986 with Blessed John Paul II in Assisi. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Dialogue for peace is religious obligation, pope tells leaders (CNS) Peace is so difficult to find because men and women struggle to stop focusing on their own interests long enough to listen to and learn from others, Pope Francis said. Pope Francis told the leaders that everyone has a responsibility to contribute to peace through their prayers and their actions, but for religious leaders that obligation is absolute because “the commandment of peace is deeply inscribed in the religious traditions we represent…”

Heads of churches visit Al Aqsa in solidarity (Fides) A delegation of senior representatives of the Christian churches of Jerusalem carried out a visit to the Mosque of Al Aqsa on Monday, 30 September, to publicly express their solidarity with the local Muslim community after the recent provocative actions staged by Jewish pro-settlement extremists nearby. The delegation included Catholic Bishop William Shomali, patriarchal vicar of the Latin Patriarchate; Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani; and the Armenian Patriarchal Vicar Joseph Kelekian…

Chaldean patriarch urges Muslim-Christian unity (Daily Star Lebanon) At the close of his visit to Lebanon, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I said the fate of the region depends upon Lebanon’s ability to maintain Christian-Muslim unity. The patriarch called on all Lebanese to “unite, leave their petty disputes behind and look to the future, because the region’s fate is tied to Christian and Muslim unity in Lebanon…”

Coptic bishop escapes assassination attempt in Egypt (AINA) Bishop Anba Makarios of Minya was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempted this morning. The bishop was driving into the town of Al Sario in the Minya province when his car came under a hail of bullets from several unidentified persons. The bishop’s driver was able to drive away and he brought the bishop to the home of a local Copt, where they took refuge. But the gunmen followed, surrounded the Copt’s house and shot at it for over 90 minutes, causing extensive damage to its windows, doors and walls…

Countries hosting Syrian refugees stretched to the limit (VOA) Participants at a United Nations refugee conference in Geneva are appealing for stronger international support for countries hosting large Syrian refugee populations. They say four neighboring countries of asylum are stretched to the limit. A U.N. video graphically shows the anguished evolution of Syria’s humanitarian crisis. What began as a series of peaceful protests in March 2011 has developed into a catastrophic situation in which more than 100,000 people have been killed and more than two million Syrians have fled the country…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War Christian-Muslim relations

30 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis meets with cardinals at the Vatican on 30 September during the consistory in which he announced 27 April as the date for the canonization of Blesseds John XIII and John Paul II. The Polish pontiff who led the Catholic Church for 27 years and witnessed the fall of communism and Pope John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council, will be declared saints in a single ceremony on Divine Mercy Sunday. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope to canonize Blessed John XXIII, John Paul II April 27 (CNS) Recognizing that Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II have widespread reputations for holiness and that years of studying their lives and actions have proven their exceptional virtue, Pope Francis announced he would declare his two predecessors saints at a single ceremony on 27 April. The pope made the announcement on 30 September at the end of an “ordinary public consistory,” a gathering of cardinals and promoters of the sainthood causes of the two late popes. The consistory took place in the context of a prayer service in Latin and included the reading of brief biographies of the two sainthood candidates…

Pope receives Greek Orthodox patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday received in audience in the Vatican His Beatitude Theodoros II, the Greek Orthodox pope and patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. The patriarch’s enthronement took place on 24 October 2004 at the Holy Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Alexandria, in the presence of many primates and representatives of all the churches, the cultural and political leaders of Greece and Egypt and thousands of Christians… [To learn more about the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Alexandria and All Africa, see our profile.]

God is everywhere in Egypt (Los Angeles Times) In politically fractured Egypt, there’s one belief that almost every faction seems to hold in common: God is on our side. Egypt’s social and cultural mix is complex, comprising Islamists, progressives, conservatives, those marching in lock step with the powerful military and more. But in the Arab world’s most populous and influential country, the many guises of piety are rarely absent from discourse. Whether in fiery mosque sermons, slow-moving constitutional deliberations or triumphal military statements, the banner of heaven is being waved by all sides…

Bombings across Iraq now touch on formerly safe havens (Christian Science Monitor) A rash of car bombs killed dozens across Baghdad on Monday, the latest in a series of deadly bombings that have racked Iraq over the past several days. The violence has brought the country’s civilian death toll to its worst level since 2008. The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this month that many Iraqis feel the civil war never really ended, and that the recent surge in violence is evidence of the sectarian divide still plaguing the country — as well as the government’s inability to unite Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites…

Chaldean patriarch: Eastern Christians united against extremism (AsiaNews) In pastoral visit in Lebanon, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I denounced the discrimination to which Christians are subdued and defended the contribution that they have made together with the Muslims for the history, culture and human rights in the Middle East. Referring to Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” the patriarch has asked all Christians to “remain firm” in their roots by educating their children in the faith received and strengthening the ecumenical work of unity among Christian denominations: without unity, he stressed, “we have no future…”

Four students arrested for anti-Christian vandalism in Israel (Fides) On Sunday afternoon, 29 September, four young Israeli Jews were arrested after they had severely damaged at least fifteen Christian graves in the cemetery situated on Mt. Zion, near the Old City of Jerusalem. The four were students attending a Jewish religious school situated in the west of the Old City. According to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, at least two of them seem to be activists connected to extremist movements in support of Jewish settlements in the West Bank…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Pope Francis Violence against Christians Pope John Paul II

27 September 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2012 photo, Anaadi Ahmad, a refugee from Homs, Syria, holds one of her children in a refugee camp in Al Four, at the foot of the mountains on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, Catholic Relief Services)

Lebanese official says Syrian refugees threaten Lebanon’s existence (Daily Star Lebanon) Energy Minister Gebran Bassil warned Friday the Syrian refugee crisis threatens the existence of Lebanon and said the country must stop receiving refugees. “The Syrian refugee crisis is the biggest crisis threatening the Lebanese entity,” Bassil told a news conference to address the surge in the number of Syrian refugees crossing into the country. “We should stop receiving refugees with the exception of those who need health care,” Bassil said. The United Nations is aiding over 750,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and there are hundreds of thousands more people who are uncounted. Lebanese officials say the country needs more international aid to cope with the huge numbers of refugees…

Syrian refugees in Lebanon set differences aside (Al Monitor) The Syrian conflict has affected Lebanon on many occasions, with attacks against Hezbollah occurring in recent months alongside sectarian fighting in Tripoli. Refugees in precarious conditions, however, seem to have put their political differences aside in the face of dire odds. Most refugees agree that tensions about Syrians, though they exist, are minor compared with those between Lebanese and Syrians. Organizations dealing with Syrian refugees in Lebanon such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Norwegian Refugee Council also report this finding. Dana Sleiman, an information officer for UNHCR, said that the organization has not observed “any form of political segregation” among Syrian refugees, but that “tensions appear mostly between Lebanese and Syrians, primarily on financial issues…”

Islamists torch statues, crosses in Syrian churches (AINA) Fighters linked to Al Qaeda set fire to statues and crosses inside churches in northern Syria on Thursday and destroyed a cross on a church clock tower, a watchdog said. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters entered the Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation in the northern city of Raqa and torched the religious furnishings inside, the Syria Observatory for Human Rights said. They did the same at the Armenian Catholic Church of the Martyrs, and also destroyed a cross atop its clock tower, replacing it with the ISIL flag…

Orthodox patriarch shares pain of Syrian people with pope (Vatican Radio) The pain and suffering of Christians in Syria was at the heart of a meeting that Pope Francis had on Friday with Patriarch Youhanna X, head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East. On Sunday the patriarch will attend Mass in St. Peter’s Square, celebrated by the pope to mark the Day of Catechists. In his encounter with the Holy Father, the patriarch spoke about the difficulties facing the Christian community in Syria and the surrounding region. He also talked about the plight of his own brother who was kidnapped last April, together with the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo. The two leaders also shared their hopes for progress on the journey towards full Christian unity…

Keeping the Khachkars (OCP Media Network) The cross is arguably the most familiar symbol of Christianity, but nowhere is this iconography as crucial or culturally entrenched as it is in Armenia. Wherever you go, thousands of khachkars, or cross-stones, provide a rare glimpse into the art of spiritual expression. Starting from the 4th century, the conversion of Armenians, and the instatement of Christianity — and by extension, the Armenian Apostolic Church — as a state religion in 301 issued a new era of national consciousness. Upon initial inspection, the khachkar bears resemblance to other forms of Christian art, namely the Celtic high cross and the Lithuanian kryzdirbyste, but in order to understand how a medieval stone became so charged with the Armenian spirit, a brief lesson in iconology is needed…



Tags: Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Cultural Identity Armenia





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