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September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
19 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis listens as Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, speaks during during the pope’s visit to the main synagogue in Rome on Sunday 17 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope visits Rome synagogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday became the third pope to visit Rome’s synagogue in a sign of continuing Catholic-Jewish friendship. During the visit that featured welcome speeches by prominent members of Rome’s Jewish community and a speech by the Pope, Francis greeted a number of people including several Holocaust survivors...

Report: Nearly 19,000 civilians killed in Iraq over 21 months (CNN) Nearly 19,000 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015 — a toll the United Nations calls “staggering” in a new report. The report, released Tuesday, outlines the horrific impact that Iraq’s ongoing conflict is having on its civilian population...

Vatican official: Dialogue is the only way to counter extremism (Vatican Radio) Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on Sunday said “to counter extremism we have to commit ourselves to a sincere dialogue.” He was speaking at the First Arab Thinkers Forum at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi...

Pope to migrants: Do not be robbed of hope, joy of living (CNS) Welcoming thousands of migrants and refugees to the Vatican for their own Year of Mercy celebration, Pope Francis urged them to resist everything that would rob them of hope and joy. “Each of you is the bearer of a history, culture and precious values and, unfortunately, also often of experiences of poverty, oppression and fear,” the pope said on 17 January. But gathering in St. Peter’s Square for the Holy Year “is a sign of hope in God. Don’t allow yourselves to be robbed of hope and the joy of living, which spring from the experience of divine mercy, also thanks to the people who welcomed and helped you...”

Report: Hundreds of cases of anti-Christian violence in India (Fides) In 2015 over 200 anti-Christian violence occurred. Seven Protestant pastors and one lay person were killed, while the victims of violence as a whole are about 8,000, including women and children...

Believers celebrate Orthodox Epiphany with icy plunge (AP) Believers in St Petersburg, Russia, celebrate Orthodox Epiphany on Monday by taking a dip in icy cold water. The event started with a procession to the water, which was then blessed by a priest.Swimming in icy water is a traditional way for the Russian faithfuls to celebrate Epiphany...



14 January 2016
Greg Kandra




A refugee drinks tea in front of his tent in the refugee camp in the coastal town of Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk, France on 10 January. (photo: CNS/Stephanie Lecocq, EPA)

Care for refugees and displaced persons has been a consistent theme of Pope Francis, and CNS’s Cindy Wooden has some background:

“We are called to serve Christ the crucified through every marginalized person,” Pope Francis said in the new book, “The Name of God Is Mercy.”

“We touch the flesh of Christ in he who is outcast, hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, ill, unemployed, persecuted, in search of refuge,” the pope continued. “That is where we find our God, that is where we touch our Lord.”

The U.N. Refugee Agency reported last June that at the end of 2014, the number of people forcibly displaced because of persecution, conflict and violence reached the highest number ever recorded; it had grown to “a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.” The U.N. estimated the number had surpassed 60 million by the end of 2015.

The chief cause of the increase was the conflict in Syria, a conflict that is ongoing and continues to send people fleeing.

In 2015, the U.N. reported, 244 million people, or 3.3 percent of the world’s population, lived outside their country of origin.

The plight of migrants and refugees has been at the heart of Pope Francis’ concern as pope. Soon after his election in 2013, he went to the Italian island of Lampedusa to pray for migrants who had drowned attempting to reach Europe and to meet those who made it safely and those who have welcomed them.

Meeting 11 January with ambassadors representing their nations at the Vatican, the pope made his concern for migrants and migration the key focus of his speech. While acknowledging the social and political challenges that come with welcoming migrants, Pope Francis insisted on the human and religious obligation to care for those forced to flee in search of safety or a dignified life.

The pope’s concern for refugees is not just talk.

In September, the Vatican’s St. Anne parish welcomed a family of four from Damascus, Syria, providing an apartment, food and other assistance because under Italian law, asylum seekers are not allowed to work for the first six months they are in the country. The parish of St. Peter’s Basilica is hosting Eritrean refugees. A woman, whose husband is missing, gave birth to her fifth child shortly after arriving in Rome. She, the newborn and two of her other children are living in a Vatican apartment; she hopes soon to embrace her other two children, who are now in a refugee camp in awaiting the completion of family reunification procedures. In the meantime, the woman is hosting another Eritrean woman and her child in the apartment.

Read more.



14 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, officials describe efforts to bring humanitarian relief to the starving city of Madaya in Syria. (video: Rome Reports)

Aid begins arriving in besieged Syrian city of Madaya (CNN) A second aid convoy is on the way to the besieged Syrian city of Madaya, where numerous people are reportedly starving, according to a U.N. source in the convoy. The new convoy is made up of about 50 trucks carrying wheat flour, medicine, blankets and winter clothes, the source said early Thursday. The source said the convoy hopes to reach Madaya shortly...

Dramatic conditions of Iraqi and Syrian children (L’Osservatore Romano) Women and children are the primary victims of the horrors that accompany the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, which are mostly the work of the so-called Islamic State. British daily newspaper, Daily Mail, reports the testimony of several young people who have escaped the Jihadist group in northern Iraq. These witnesses stated that they were trained — brain-washed — to sacrifice themselves as suicide bombers...

Watchdog group: 2015 “worst year” for Christian persecution (RNS) With North Korea leading the way and Islamic extremism rapidly expanding, 2015 was the “worst year in modern history for Christian persecution,” according to a group tracking this issue. Iraq is in second place on Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. It’s the first of 35 countries on the list where Islamic extremism “has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing,” said the report, released Wednesday...

Update on refugee families being housed at Vatican parishes (Vatican Radio) Two refugee families are now being hosted by the two parishes of the Vatican, in response to the 6 September 2015, Angelus appeal of Pope Francis for every parish in Europe to welcome a family of refugees...

Meeting street children is like meeting Christ (Fides) Meeting, visiting, assisting street children means encountering Christ: this is what a group of young Catholics in Nagpur, a city in central India experienced when they went in search of street children. Pushpa Singh, one of the young people involved, told Fides: “At Epiphany, the Wise Men make their way to the Child Jesus. For us it was the same experience. We saw the Child Jesus in the poor, marginalized, abandoned children”...

Closed Catholic church in Pennsylvania reopens as Russian Orthodox (Wilkes Barre Times Leader) After being vacant for more than three years, the former St. Rocco’s Roman Catholic Church on the corner of Tompkins and West Oak streets has reopened its doors as St. Irene Russian Orthodox Outside Church of Russia. The church plans to open more doors in the community by purchasing homes in the Greater Pittston area for parishioners in need...



13 January 2016
Greg Kandra




The Rev. Joaqim Unfal is the sole monk residing at Mar Evgin Monastery in Tur Abdin, Turkey. Learn more about Syriac Christians returning to their homeland in Coming Home in the
Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)




13 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian children are rescued from the wreckage after Russian airstrike hit a school at Zibdiyye neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. (photo: Andalou Agency/Getty Images)

U.N. relief official calls for immediate end to blockades in Syria (The New York Times) The head of the United Nations’ relief efforts for Syria pleaded with all warring parties on Tuesday to lift their sieges on key towns and let aid agencies deliver food and medical care to people stuck behind front lines. “The immediate thing to be done is to lift sieges everywhere,” the humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, told reporters by phone from Damascus, the Syrian capital, where he is based...

Eight children, teacher killed in Russian airstrike in Syria (Reuters) Eight children and their teacher were killed by a Russian airstrike that hit a school in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo on Monday, according to a leading human rights monitor. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that more than 20 people were also injured in the strike, all of whom were teachers and students at a school in the town of Anjara, located around nine miles north of the city of Aleppo. The death toll is expected to rise as the search for survivors in the rubble of the school building continues, Al Jazeera reports...

U.S.-led coalition destroys ISIS cash storehouse in Iraq (USA TODAY) Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition blew up a warehouse in Iraq where the Islamic State had stored millions of dollars in cash, the U.S. military disclosed Tuesday. Coalition aircraft targeted a “cash distribution center” near Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which is under control of the extremist group, the U.S military said in a daily report on details of airstrikes...

Pope prays for victims in Turkey (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis Wednesday remembered the victims of Tuesday’s suicide bomb attack in Istanbul which left ten people dead...

Archbishop advocates for Christian schools in Jordan (Fides) In the historical life of the Churches in the Middle East, there has always been a valuable role carried out by Christian schools especially in the present scenario ravaged by sectarian conflict. This was strongly advocated by Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, during his intervention at the conference for the training of Catholic school head masters being held in Amman...

Dialogue between Vishnus and Christians in India (Fides) In India there is need to bear witness to the power of prayer combined with action to build a community of peace and harmony: this is the result of the recent session of dialogue between Christians and Vishnus, which was attended by the Office for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism in the Bishops’ Conference of India...



12 January 2016
Greg Kandra




People pray during a Mass on 11 January concelebrated by bishops from North America, Europe and South Africa for Iraqi Christian refugees at Our Lady of Peace Center on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital, Amman. (photo: Dale Gavlak)

Bishops visiting the Holy Land this week prayed yesterday with and for Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

From CNS:

With crises in Syria and Iraq deepening, Catholic bishops on a solidarity visit with the “forgotten” Christians of the Middle East are urging stepped-up peace efforts to resolve conflicts tearing apart the troubled region.

Highlighting the ongoing plight of Iraqi Christian refugees who face another winter of displacement, 18 months after fleeing persecution by Islamic State militants, is also their top concern.

“They want a future which is full of peace,” Bishop Declan Lang of Bristol, England, said of the Iraqi Christians who attended a packed, solemn Mass at Our Lady of Peace Center on the hilly, tree-lined outskirts of the Jordanian capital.

“These people are of tremendous faith, and that’s where they find their identity. What we are trying to say to them is that you are not forgotten,” Bishop Lang told Catholic News Service.

Bishop Lang has been leading 12 bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America on the third and final leg of a pilgrimage to encourage Christians in the Holy Land. Known as the Holy Land Coordination, the annual event was set up at the invitation of the Holy See at the end of the last century to offer support to local Christian communities of the Holy Land.

The bishops earlier traveled to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to encourage a Palestinian Christian population increasingly dwindling in the land of Jesus’ birth.

But the bishops told Catholic News Service that it also was important to hear from Iraqi Christians and other refugees, so the wider Christian community can effectively help them.

“It’s important that we remind our governments and the general population of the situation of Iraqi Christians,” Bishop Lang said of the some 8,000 Iraqi Christians currently sheltering in neighboring Jordan.

They fled their ancient homeland of more than 14 centuries after Islamic State militants told them to convert to Islam, be killed or leave. Tens of thousands are internally displaced in northern Iraq.

“So one of the responsibilities and obligations that we have is to keep reminding people of the stress and distress of the Iraqi refugees,” Bishop Lang said.

One Iraqi Christian, identified only as Bashar, said after the Mass, “My family and I sadly feel that we can never go back to our home in Mosul.” A mechanical engineer, the man had once owned his own telecom company in Iraq’s second-biggest city, which is currently in the hands of Islamic State.

“The military didn’t protect us, and our Muslim neighbors betrayed us, even robbing us of our personal possessions. So we believe that the only future for us is somewhere in the West,” said the man, who now shelters with his family of four at the center’s compound because he has lost his savings.

Read the full report.



12 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Turkish police secure the area after an explosion on 12 January 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. At least 10 people have been killed and 15 wounded in a suicide bombing near tourists in the central Istanbul historic Sultanahmet district, which is home to world-famous monuments including the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Turkish President Erdogan has stated that the suicide bomber was of Syrian origin. (photo: Can Erok/Getty Images)

Vatican expresses sorrow over Turkey bombing (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, on Tuesday expressed his sorrow for the terrorist attack which took place in Istanbul, Turkey. “What is happening [in Turkey] pains us. What is happening there, what continues to repeat itself, confirms that the best medicine in the face of these evils is always mercy”...

Pope acknowledges appointment of new bishop in Kerala (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday acknowledged the appointment of a new auxiliary bishop to a diocese in southern India’s Kerala state belonging to the eastern rite Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. At its meeting at Mount Saint Thomas in Kerala, the Syro-Malabar Church Synod elected Father Jose Pulickal as Auxiliary Bishop of Kanjirapally, headed by Bishop Mathew Arackal. Unlike in the Latin-rite Church where the Pope directly appoints bishops, the synods of eastern-rite Catholic churches have the autonomy of appointing their own bishops, to which the Pope gives his assent...

Kurdish militants attack checkpoint controlled by Christians (Fides) Kurdish militiamen of the YPG yesterday attacked by surprise a checkpoint in the Governorate of Qamishli in northeastern Syria, which was presided by men belonging to the militia of the self-defense Sootoro, formed mainly of Syrian and Assyrian Christians who act in coordination with the Syrian government army. The Kurdish attack provoked a firefight, which lasted an hour, during which — according to reports from the Assyrian International News Agency — the Assyrian militant David Gabriel was killed, and three Kurdish soldiers were injured. According to other sources, the three Kurdish soldiers may have also died...

U.S. bishop says Palestinians in Cremisan Valley have “lost hope” (CNS) A U.S. bishop visiting the Holy Land for the second year in a row said Palestinians whose land has been divided by the Israeli separation barrier “have lost hope.” “It was very sad to see the present situation where individuals have their lands confiscated and trees uprooted,” said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico. “This is a sign of something much larger. It seems to be a diminishing of the rights of Palestinians to be there and a lack of acknowledgment of their legitimate right to be present whether in the state of Israel or in Palestinian lands.” Bishop Cantu and 12 bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America visited the Cremisan Valley 10 January as part of the Holy Land Coordination, in which they come to show solidarity with Palestinian Christians...



Tags: Syria Palestine Israel Kerala Turkey

11 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis addresses the diplomatic corps at the Vatican on 11 January. During his speech, the pope dedicated key parts to the “grave crisis of migration.”
(photo: CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)


Pope Francis addresses “grave crisis” of migration in speech (L’Osservatore Romano) In his speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis dedicated the most significant passages to “the grave crisis of migration which we are facing.” The diplomats had gathered in the Regia Hall on Monday morning, 11 January, for the traditional audience at the beginning of the year. The choice was motivated by the Pope’s wish to help discern the causes of the crisis and “consider possible solutions,” in order to defeat “the inevitable fears associated with this massive and formidable phenomenon”...

Vatican promotes message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Vatican Radio) The World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on Sunday 17 January 2016. Pope Francis’ message to mark the day was released in October 2015. Based on the theme, “Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy,” the Holy Father recalls what he said in the Bull of indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus; that is, “at times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives”...

In Gaza, visiting bishops see signs of hope amid continued destruction (CNS) From a new playground at the Catholic parish in Gaza to transitional housing provided by a U.S. agency, visiting bishops from three continents said they saw signs of hope and resilience amid the continuing poverty and destruction in the Gaza Strip. “There is still a lot of suffering, but I’ve seen more signs of hope. This year one of the main things (that impressed me) was this sort of hope,” said Bishop Lionel Gendron of St. Jean-Longueuil, Quebec. “There are a few signs that it is possible to rebuild in a very simple way. Last year, I thought it was truly awful; this year, hope is there”...

Christians and Muslims visit Christian cemetery desecrated in Iraq (Fides) On Sunday 10 January, a delegation of Christian and Muslim representatives visited the Christian cemetery in Kirkuk, desecrated on 23 December, with damage to several tombs and gravestones...

Kerala bishops slam state government over farmers’ issues (Vatican Radio) The Catholic bishops of southern India’s Kerala state have slammed the state government for not addressing the issues of farmers. In a circular, which was read out in Catholic churches in the state on Sunday, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) urged farmer cutting across religious lines to unite to strengthen the Indian Farmers’ Movement (Infarm), based in Kottayam district...

New book traces the ancient Christian civilization of Ethiopia (Irish Catholic) Here is a really remarkable book on which to begin the New Year, a book that will open up for many a new horizon of Christian culture and faith. This long book is a 17th-century biography of a very holy woman. But its distinction is that she is African, and the book contains elements of autobiography in a biographical framework. It is the work of an African author and has long been regarded as an important book by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahado Church as the Ethiopians now prefer to call it. As the earliest known biography of an African woman it is unique and it should be much better known...



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ethiopia Refugees Muslim

8 January 2016
Greg Kandra




P.S. Limsana, a primary-school student at Ashabhavan, takes in the scenic vistas surrounding her school in India, which serves children with special needs. To discover why things are looking up for the students there, read Kerala’s House of Hope in the Winter edition of ONE.
(photo: Jose Jacob)




8 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from 6 January, Syrian civil defense team members in Aleppo hold banners as they gather to protest for civilians who starved to death in Madaya, Syria. The Syrian government has agreed to allow aid into the rebel-held village.
(photo: Beha el-Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Syrian government to allow aid into besieged town (BBC) The Syrian government has agreed to allow aid into the besieged rebel-held village of Madaya, the UN says, amid reports of residents starving to death. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said that if access were secured, trucks could begin to arrive by Monday. Aid agencies say conditions in Madaya, near Damascus, are “extremely dire”...

Call for homes taken from Christians in Iraq to be returned (Fides) The Chaldean Christian politician Pascale Warda, former immigration minister in the first government of transition following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, has publicly expressed her satisfaction regarding Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s stand on the need to return to their rightful owners homes and property illegally stolen in recent months from Christian families in Baghdad, Kirkuk and other Iraqi cities. As reported by Iraqi media, including the website ankawa.com, Pascale Warda has asked all Iraqi citizens to support the reinstatement of the rights of the Christians owners supported by Muqtada al-Sadr...

Coptic Patriarch Tawadros: terrorism does not distinguish between Christians and Muslims (Fides) Terrorism “does not make any distinction between Christians and Muslims,” and even when it is fueled by religious ideology, it indiscriminately affects all believers in God, fomenting sectarian strife where people kill each other for “human stupidity” for “money” or to assert “their interests.” This is what Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II said during some interviews released on 7 January by different Egyptian media...

Photographer captures Gaza’s efforts to rebuild (TIME) Italian photographer Federico Scoppa headed to Gaza for the first time in 2013, eager to make a contribution to the wide documentation of the enclave’s dire reality. “The initial idea was just to go [there] and see what the results of the bombing were,” Scoppa tells TIME, “but while walking the devastated streets and crossing neighborhoods completely knocked down, I started noticing spots of color that little by little appeared,” he recalls. “Then I saw that there were people who were coming back and settling back in their ravaged houses”...

Orthodox faithful mark Christmas (AP) As Christmas approached across the sprawling country’s nine time zones, Russians flocked to churches for long and solemn liturgies. At Moscow’s enormous Christ The Savior Cathedral, the service began at 11 p.m. on Wednesday and stretched two and a half hours, led by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, with the devout standing shoulder-to-shoulder. President Vladimir Putin attended a midnight service at a church in the village of Turginovo, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) northwest of Moscow, where his parents were baptized...



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Orthodox





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