10 June 2014
Syrian children from Aleppo play in a shanty near Gaziantep, Turkey, on 25 May According to U.N. agencies, more than 40 percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 22.4 million has been displaced by the conflict. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)
Iraqi Christians on the run (Fides) Insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, conquered in the late evening of 9 June the seat of the provincial government in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The governor Athel Nujafi was able to escape before the building fell into the hands of the assailants armed with grenade launchers and machine guns mounted on all-terrain vehicles. On Monday, Governor Nujiafi, with a televised appeal, urged the people of Mosul and the province to organize themselves into self-defense groups to resist the ISIL attack. As Fides learns, the attack of Al-qaeda militants has accelerated the flight of Christian families to the villages in the Nineveh Plain, where in recent days the presence of the militia “Peshmerga” Kurds has strengthened...
Initiative urges help to save Syria’s Christians (Public Radio of Armenia) “First Christians,” a new Facebook community of faith devoted to protecting the first Christian nations, has asked all those devoted to religious freedom to join together in calling upon President Obama to bring an end to the latest wave of brutal attacks by extremist groups upon the Christian civilian population of Syria, Asbarez reports...
Ukrainian Catholic bishops thank world for prayers (CNS) Ukrainian Catholic bishops thanked people around the world for their prayers over the last six months and asked for continued prayers for peace in their country. “The dignity that Ukrainians yearn for is not first and foremost material,” said a message from the Permanent Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. “They seek a God-given dignity, a respect for their very being. Their right for self-determination, territorial integrity, cultural and especially ecclesial tradition has been violated brutally in the past and is demeaned today.” The bishops described recent events in Ukraine as “truly miraculous,” noting that “transforming grace poured down upon the people of our country...”
Russian Orthodox Church backs renaming Volgograd (Ecumenical News) The Russian Orthodox Church is said to have tentatively voiced its support of a referendum suggesting the renaming of Volgograd, the Russian city formerly known as Stalingrad. A Washington Post blog on June said that the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed support for holding a referendum, but rather wishes to go back to the city’s original name Tsaritsyn, which was the city’s name since 1589 before it became Stalingrad in 1925...
Hundreds of Christians convert to Islam in Turkey (ABNA News Agency) According to the information reported in the Turkish press and from the General Secretariat of Religious Affairs in Turkey, 779 people residing in the Country have converted to Islam since the beginning of 2014. The overwhelming majority of the converts were Christians (616) while the former atheists are only 21, 3 former Hindu and those from Judaism and 132 new Muslims who previously belonged to other religions. A significant number of converts are foreigners living in Turkey, including 150 Germans and 52 Russians...
9 June 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Russian Orthodox Church Islam
Pope Francis looks on as Israeli President Shimon Peres, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas embrace during an invocation for peace in the Vatican Gardens on 8 June.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
9 June 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Palestine Israel
In the video above, Pope Francis prays with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican on 8 June. (video: from CNS)
Pope: only God can bring peace to the Holy Land (CNS) Praying for peace in the Holy Land alongside leaders of long-antagonistic nations, Pope Francis called on God to act where human efforts had failed, to end what he described as violence inspired by the devil. “More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it,” the pope said June 8 at an evening ceremony in the Vatican Gardens. “That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God.” The pope addressed his remarks to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during an “invocation for peace” in the Holy Land, to which he had invited them during his visit to the region two weeks earlier...
Text: Pope Francis’s remarks at the “invocation for peace” (Vatican Radio) Your presence, dear Presidents, is a great sign of brotherhood which you offer as children of Abraham. It is also a concrete expression of trust in God, the Lord of history, who today looks upon all of us as brothers and who desires to guide us in his ways. This meeting of prayer for peace in the Holy Land, in the Middle East and in the entire world is accompanied by the prayers of countless people of different cultures, nations, languages and religions: they have prayed for this meeting and even now they are united with us in the same supplication. It is a meeting which responds to the fervent desire of all who long for peace and dream of a world in which men and women can live as brothers and sisters and no longer as adversaries and enemies...
The “Francis Doctrine” puts the Vatican on the world stage (RNS) The Israeli-Palestinian prayer summit is drawing particular attention because it comes as traditional diplomatic efforts in the region have once again stalled. It also follows on the heels of Francis’ three-day pilgrimage through the Holy Land, where he spoke forcefully on behalf of peace, and often matched his words with bold actions. That approach raised both hopes and the Vatican’s profile, and it’s the formula Francis has used since he was elected in March last year: repeatedly calling for reconciliation in global hot zones like South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ukraine and Latin America, and dispatching emissaries or launching initiatives when he can. Francis has been especially engaged in the intractable Syria conflict, organizing a fast and a public prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square last year and insisting that the Holy See be present at peace talks in Switzerland this year. “Francis is not resigned to a passive vision of world affairs,” Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic organization active in conflict resolution and peace brokering, said last summer. “We must prepare for a new age of political audacity for the Holy See...”
Orthodox-Catholic group urges Vatican to lift ban on ordination of married priests (USCCB) The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation voted in early June to encourage the “lifting of the restrictions regarding the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Eastern Catholic Churches of North America.” “This action would affirm the ancient and legitimate Eastern Christian tradition, and would assure the Orthodox that, in the event of the restoration of full communion between the two Churches, the traditions of the Orthodox Church would not be questioned,” the consultation said in a statement released on 6 June. “We are convinced that this action would enhance the spiritual lives of Eastern Catholics and would encourage the restoration of unity between Catholic and Orthodox Christians,” the statement said...
Syria’s president issues amnesty for prisoners (AP) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared a general amnesty Monday for prisoners in the country, state media reported. It was not clear how many — if any — prisoners would be freed after the presidential decree, issued just five days after al-Assad had won a third, seven-year term in office amid the three-year-old civil war in his country...
Eritrean bishops describe life in the country (BBC) Four Eritrean Catholic bishops have published a letter criticizing life in the country — a rare move in one of the world’s most tightly controlled states. Although they were careful not to condemn the government directly, correspondents say the letter-writers are taking a huge risk. The bishops describe the country as “desolate” because so many people had fled or were in prison or the army...
6 June 2014
Tags: Syria Pope Francis Palestine Israel Vatican
6 June 2014
Tags: Pope Francis
Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople venerate the Stone of Unction in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 25 May. The two leaders marked the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. (photo: CNS/Grzegorz Galazka, pool)
The Holy See announced this morning the structure for this weekend’s prayer with the presidents of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, and confirmed the participation of the ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew of Constantinople.
From the Vatican Information Service:
During a briefing held this morning, the Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa O.F.M., custodian of the Holy Land, and the Rev. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, presented the details of the “Invocation for Peace” initiative scheduled to take place in the Vatican on Sunday. Pope Francis has invited the presidents of Israel and Palestine, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, to join him in a prayer encounter.
Peres and Abbas will arrive at the Vatican within a few minutes of each other (the former at 6:15 p.m. and the latter at 6:30). The Holy Father will receive them at the entrance of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and will then speak briefly with each. All three will then join together, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and will then proceed by car to the Vatican Gardens where the event will take place, beginning with a musical introduction and an explanation in English of the structure and form of the celebration, which will follow the chronological order of the three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
At around 7 p.m. there will be a prayer (creation) in Hebrew, a brief musical interlude, a prayer invoking forgiveness, another musical interlude, a prayer invoking peace, and finally, a Jewish musical meditation. The Christian part will follow the same structure, but the first prayer will be in English, the second in Italian, and the third in Arabic. Finally the Muslim part of the celebration will proceed as above, in Arabic.
The reader will then introduce in English the final part of the celebration, beginning with Pope Francis’ discourse invoking peace. The Holy Father will then invite each of the two presidents to formulate his own invocation. Shimon Peres will begin, followed by Mahmoud Abbas. As a gesture of peace, in which the Patriarch Bartholomew will also participate, they will all shake hands and the Pope will then accompany them in planting an olive tree, symbol of peace.
At the end of the celebration the four will remain side by side while the delegations pass by to greet them. The Holy Father, the two presidents and the Patriarch will then proceed to the Casina Pio IV to speak in private.
Finally, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas will leave the Vatican, while Pope Francis and the Patriarch Bartholomew will return to the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
6 June 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Ecumenism Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
A parishioner prays at the shrine to Our Lady of Iraq at the Chaldean church in Amman, Jordan. To learn more about the Iraqi Christian community in Jordan, read Out of Iraq, from the Spring 2013 issue of ONE. (photo: Cory Eldridge)
6 June 2014
Tags: Refugees Iraqi Christians Jordan Chaldean Church Chaldeans
Pope Francis and Catholicos Aram I, head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, prayed at the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel. (video: Rome Reports)
Armenian Catholicos praises Pope Francis’ efforts for Middle East peace (Vatican Radio) Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia told Pope Francis on Thursday that he hoped his invitation to the Palestinian and Israeli presidents to pray for peace in the Vatican would be the start of a process leading to justice and peace in the Middle East. He said the pope and the Vatican are playing an important role in expressing solidarity with Christians throughout the Middle East and in Syria in particular…
Sisi victory deals ‘deadly blow’ to revolutionary youth movement (Al Monitor) As Egypt’s military strongman Abdel Fattah al Sisi was declared president with a landslide 96.9 percent of the vote, and as the ailing nation prepares an inauguration ceremony that will cost millions, the revolutionary youth are contemplating a grim political future wherever they are — in jail, in exile or occupying opposition seats expected to be extremely vulnerable to the highly anticipated wave of oppression…
Egypt criminalises sexual harassment for first time (The Guardian) Egypt has criminalised sexual harassment for the first time, in a move that campaigners say is just the first step towards ending an endemic problem. United Nations research from 2013 suggested that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women had experienced sexual harassment, but it is often the victims who are blamed for their experience, rather than the harassers. Campaigners welcomed the law, but warned that it remained to be seen whether police will enforce it…
Eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk keeps humming amid insurgency (Washington Post) For two months, Donetsk, a city of 1 million people, has been occupied by pro-Russian insurgents who have declared the Donetsk region a sovereign republic, independent of Ukraine. They have vowed a radical transformation of the established order and, backed by a considerable arsenal, they have overtaken dozens of government buildings. But the insurgents, as it turns out, don’t have much time or inclination for the daily drudgery of governing. Rather than risk the ire of residents by disrupting public services, they have left the business of running this city to the same people who were doing it all along: Donetsk’s 13,500 municipal employees, who have kept the metropolis humming even as battles rage all around. “Our workers haven’t missed a day,” said Konstantin Savinov, the city administrator. “But it’s not easy to work under the threat of weapons…”
5 June 2014
Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Ukraine Ecumenism Armenian Apostolic Church
Pope Francis stops in front of the Israeli security wall in Bethlehem, Palestine, on 25 May. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, pool)
On the feast of Pentecost, Sunday, 8 June, the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, will gather in the Vatican with Pope Francis to pray for peace in the Holy Land.
“In this place where the Prince of Peace was born, I desire to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, and President Shimon Peres, to raise together with me an intense prayer to God for the gift of peace,” the pope said while in Bethlehem in late May.
“And I offer my house in the Vatican to host you in this encounter of prayer.”
The pope has made it clear that this gathering is not a summit or an act of mediation, but an act of prayer.
“Everyone wants peace, many people build it every day with small gestures, many suffer patiently and bear the fatigue of many attempts to build it. And everyone — especially those who are at the service of their people — have a duty to be the instruments and builders of peace, above all in prayer.
“Building peace is hard,” Francis concluded, “but living without peace is a torment. All men and women of this earth and of the whole world are asking us to bring before God their ardent desire for peace.”
Since this is a private act of prayer among the sons of Abraham, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, the form this prayerful gathering will take remains private among the participants. But prayers for the pope and presidents, who will meet in the Vatican in the afternoon, are encouraged.
So, on this sacred feast celebrating the birthday of the church, join Francis in praying for peace in the land of the Prince of Peace.
5 June 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Israel Middle East Peace Process West Bank Separation Barrier
A nun walks home after farming a small plot in Ethiopia’s countryside. To learn about the challenges Ethiopian women face, read An Uphill Battle, from the May 2009 issue of ONE. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
5 June 2014
Tags: Ethiopia Education Women (rights/issues) Women
Every day 2,500 new Syrian refugees arrive in Lebanon, more than half of them children who have witnessed incredible horrors. (video: Al Jazeera)
U.N. pessimistic over establishing Syrian refugee camps (Daily Star Lebanon) United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly said Thursday he is downbeat about the possibility of establishing refugee camps for Syrians in Lebanon. Lebanon has been mulling the organization of camps for Syrians along the border with the United Nations. However, Lebanese officials want the camps established inside safe Syrian territories or on the Syrian side of the border…
Aleppo again without water, Armenian population threatened (Fides) In Aleppo the presidential vote with which Assad seeks to perpetuate his power was held with the central districts subjected to intense missile launch and the whole city without water again. “For two days we have been without water,” says Armenian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati, from the patriarchal residence…
Catholicos Aram I meets Pope Francis in the Vatican (Public Radio of Armenia) Following a private meeting between the two church leaders, Pope Francis I met with Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Aram I and the delegation accompanying him. In his speech the catholicos noted that since 1997 he has had the opportunity to meet Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and currently, His Holiness Francis I. The catholicos then expressed his appreciation of the pope’s effort to take the church to the people, which he said is also at the heart of the Armenian Orthodox Church and to which it is fully committed. He then invited all churches to leave confessional differences aside and face together the urgent challenges confronting humanity…
Christians object to serving in Israel’s army (Al Jazeera) The leaders of Israel’s large Palestinian minority are stepping up opposition to Israeli government plans to recruit Christians into the military with a specially convened congress on Friday. According to the IDF, about 2,000 Christians reach the age of conscription each year. Despite the government’s promotion of enlistment, only about 150 Christians are reported to be serving. “The reality is that most Christians do not want to serve and will not respond to the call-up,” says Riah Abu el Assal, the former Anglican bishop of Jerusalem. Opponents of enlistment among the Palestinian minority have staged a series of protests…
Israel to build 1,500 more homes in settlements (The Guardian) Israel’s housing ministry has announced new plans for almost 1,500 new settlement housing units in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, described as a “fitting Zionist response” to the new Palestinian unity government, backed by the Islamic militant group Hamas…
Pope Francis laments threats to Roma (VIS) “New civil, cultural and social approaches, and a new pastoral strategy for the church [against] modern forms of persecution, oppression and slavery” are necessary to face the situation of Roma throughout the world, said Pope Francis during this morning’s audience. Roma often find themselves on the margins of society, “and at times are looked upon with hostility and suspicion; they are rarely involved in the political, economic and social dynamics of the country…”
Pope Francis sends message to Catholic-Orthodox meeting in Minsk (Vatican Radio) The secretary of state of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has sent a message on behalf of Pope Francis to the European Orthodox-Catholic Forum, which took place in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. “His Holiness hopes that religious freedom in Europe will be protected in all of its forms and that Christians may always bear witness to the hope that is in them with kindness, respect and an upright conscience,” reads the message…
Tags: Pope Francis Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Armenian Apostolic Church