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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
14 December 2017
Greg Kandra




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Hamas supporters take part in a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement, in Gaza City, on 14 December 2017. (photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria border crossing to reopen after five years (Daily Sabah) Lebanon and Syria said Thursday they will reopen a border crossing closed five years ago, in another sign of the Syrian government’s increasing control over its territory. The crossing, called Al-Qaa in Lebanon and Jussiyeh in Syria, was closed in 2012 as fighting raged between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebel fighters seeking his overthrow...

In the Middle East, Christians stew over Trump plan to move embassy to Jerusalem (The Washington Post) Some of the festive cheer was missing this weekend at a public Christmas tree lighting near the site where Christians believe an angel proclaimed Christ’s birth to local shepherds. “Our oppressors have decided to deprive us from the joy of Christmas,” Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the former archbishop and Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, told the crowd in the town of Beit Sahour in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “Mr. Trump told us clearly Jerusalem is not yours...”

Hamas marks 30-year anniversary with Gaza rally (Al Jazeera) As the struggle for a Palestinian state continues, Hamas, one of the main Palestinian factions, is marking the 30th anniversary of its founding with celebrations in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Palestinian men, women and children, brandishing Hamas’ green flags or sporting green scarves, gathered on Thursday at the al-Katiba Square in Gaza City...

Iraq executes more than 30 ISIS suspects on terrorism charges (The Independent) A total of 38 suspected ISIS fighters in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq have been executed on charges of terrorism, the justice ministry has said. The deaths on Thursday mark the largest number of executions in a single day since 25 September, when 42 people were put to death in the same prison on charges ranging from killing members of the security forces to making car bombs...

‘Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Jerusalem’ (The New York Times) Daoud Hanania was born in West Jerusalem in 1934, the grandchild of an Arab Greek Orthodox priest. But his family left Jerusalem in 1951, in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Jerusalem,” he wrote to The New York Times last week...

Dalit Christians march to protest quotas in Kerala (The Hindu) The capital witnessed a second consecutive day of protest on the issue of reservation on Tuesday as thousands of Dalit Christians took out a ‘reservation protection rally’ to the Secretariat. Inaugurating the rally, Church of South India (CSI) moderator Thomas K. Oommen said the discrimination of people based on their religious beliefs was violation of the Constitution...



13 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Israeli security forces get orders in Bethlehem, West Bank, as Palestinians protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Muslim nations today urged recognition of East Jerusalem as the “occupied capital of a Palestinian state.” (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Muslim nations urge recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital (BBC) The leaders of 57 Muslim nations have called on the world to recognize East Jerusalem as “the occupied capital of a Palestinian state.” The Organization of Islamic Co-operation declared US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise the city as Israel’s capital unlawful. It also said the move had signaled Washington’s withdrawal from its role in the Middle East peace process...

Northern Lebanon struggles with backlash against Syrians (Al-Monitor) We are in northern Lebanon on a Monday night. Like every night, a team of 18 inspectors is dispatched around town to check that Syrians are not out in the streets after the curfew, to see who lives in which building, to photograph any new resident and record his name and city of origin in Syria, and to warn anyone whose residency permit has expired that they need to fix it as soon as possible...

International agencies announce 2018 response plan for Syrian crisis (The Jordan Times) United Nations agencies and NGO partners on Tuesday released the 2018 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), a $4.4 billion plan designed to support over five million refugees from Syria and the vulnerable host communities in neighboring countries...

Priest who was kidnapped receives Mother Teresa Award (Vatican Radio) The Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil SDB who was released after 18 months of captivity in Yemen received the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice by Harmony Foundation Mumbai on Sunday. Father Tom despite having had the opportunity to leave the country chose to serve the elders of the Missionaries of Charity in Yemen. Harmony Foundation recognized his compassionate humanity and dedication and commitment to his work in a location of great danger. On this occasion he thanked God for the opportunity he was given to serve the mission in Yemen and for all those who prayed for his release...

Kerala government pledges to expedite help to victims of storm (The Hindu) The process for providing financial assistance to the kin of those killed due to Cyclone Ockhi would be expedited, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said...

Dioceses pledge to help Holy Land Christians (Vatican Radio) Eight dioceses in England have pledged to support vulnerable Christians in the Holy Land through Christmas crib donations. Churches in the dioceses of Arundel and Brighton, Birmingham, and Hexham and Newcastle will give their crib offerings this year to the Friends of the Holy Land (FHL), a charity that provides relief to Christians living in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan...



12 December 2017
Greg Kandra




In India, newly professed religious sisters pose for a photograph after taking vows in eastern Jharkhand state on 8 December. Church leaders say vocations from ethnic minority groups are increasing. (photo: UCANews.com)

Syrian opposition urges Russia to rescue UN peace talks (The Guardian) Russia has been urged by the Syrian opposition to salvage the UN’s peace talks in Geneva this week by persuading the Syrian government delegation finally to begin direct face-to-face discussions. Basma Kodami, a leading member of the Syrian opposition negotiating team, urged the Russians to show they wanted to capitalize on the end of military operations in Syria by building a lasting peace...

Iraq holds national reconciliation meeting (Arab News) Iraq held a two-day meeting of the country’s elites in preparation for a national reconciliation conference. Co-organized by the Foreign Ministry, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Iraqi Reconciliation Committee, the meeting — which ended Tuesday — constitutes a first concrete step toward entrenching national reconciliation...

Lebanon crisis overshadows aid for refugees (EUObserver) Perched on the side of a mountain some 50km from the Syrian border, St John’s monastery in Lebanon is home to around a dozen hermits and priests. A printing press that published books in Arabic, the world’s first, can still be found within its halls. Today, the monastery has become an educational refuge for Syrian children hoping for a future that was removed from them when the regime under Bashar al-Assad indiscriminately dropped barrel bombs on his own people...

Vocations increase among ethnic minority groups in India (UCANews.com) Forty-one young women from ethnic minority groups took vows to become Catholic nuns in a rare event of this scale in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. Church leaders welcomed what they described as a trend for more tribal people to choose a religious path in life. More than 1,000 Catholics, including families and parishioners of the women, gathered 8 December for the ceremony at the Nirmala Catholic Church in the state capital, Ranchi...

Cairo cathedral marks one-year anniversary of blast (Egypt Today) Cairo Cathedral at Abbassiya district held a special liturgy Monday to mark the first anniversary of the martyrdom of 29 Copts at the explosion of St. Peter and St. Paul church, which are attached to St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral. Families and friends of victims as well as survivors are gathered for the first anniversary of the church bombing...

Nuns return to St. Barbara Monastery (OCA.org) Mother Victoria and the nuns of Saint Barbara Monastery some 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, who had been evacuated as the Thomas Fire broke out late Monday, 4 December 2017, have returned to their monastery...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Egypt Lebanon

11 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Children pray at the start of the school day at St. Michael School in Aiga, Ethiopia. Read more about efforts to help children in Ethiopia — and see more poignant pictures — in the Summer 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)



11 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Women and children sit in a relief camp on 2 December after they were evacuated following cyclone Ockhi in the coastal village of Chellanam in the southern state of Kerala, India. The storm claimed the lives of at least 32 poor Catholic fishermen who were at sea and 200 more were missing. The local church is now appealing for help for victims. (CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)

India diocese appeals for help for people hit by cyclone (Vatican Radio) India’s Catholic dioceses in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala states are grappling with the “massive disaster” in the wake of the cyclone Okhi, that swept by Trivandrum and Kanyakumari districts on 29 November. Several hundred fishermen are feared missing, the Rev. Deepak Anto, executive secretary of the media commission of the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, wrote in an email to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication urging for help...

Putin visits Syria airbase, orders start of pullout (BBC) President Vladimir Putin has ordered the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, during an unannounced visit there on Monday. Mr. Putin was met by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he arrived at the Russian Hmeimim airbase, near Latakia...

Protests near U.S. embassy in Beirut after Trump’s Jerusalem decision (The New York Times) Lebanese security forces on Sunday fired tear gas and water cannons into crowds that had gathered near the United States Embassy, in a sign that protests against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel may be escalating...

Mosul picks up the pieces after the fall of ISIS (The New York Times) For three years, this metropolis of three million people, Iraq’s second-largest city, lived under the harsh rule of the Islamic State. When the militant group was finally ousted in July, it signaled the beginning of the end of its self-declared caliphate, which once occupied a third of the country and much of Syria. American-backed Iraqi forces swept across the country, officially declaring the job finished this weekend. But the battle for Mosul lasted nearly nine months, killing thousands of people, displacing nearly a million and leaving entire districts in smoldering heaps of rubble...

Netanyahu expects EU to follow US recognition of Jerusalem (BBC) Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he expects European countries to follow the US in recognizing Jerusalem as his country’s capital. He is in Brussels for talks — the first time an Israeli prime minister has visited the city in more than 20 years...

Nuns at Orthodox monastery evacuated as California fire spreads (OCA.org) The nuns of Saint Barbara Monastery here were evacuated, along with their neighbors, after an explosive brush fire broke out late Monday, 4 December 2017. As widely reported in the media, fires continue to spread and threaten the entire Los Angeles region. “I learned from Mother Victoria that the monastery buildings still stand, but are not out of danger,” reported His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West on Thursday morning, 7 December. “The hillside behind the monastery burned and the monastery lavender field charred. So, the fire has come very close...”



7 December 2017
Greg Kandra




A Lebanese drummer fires up the crowd at a dance club in downtown Montréal. Read about the Lebanese immigrant population in the Canadian city in the September 2004 edition of ONE.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)


Several years ago, we took readers to Canada, to discover a thriving population of Lebanese immigrants:

You will find them bowed in churches, whispering praise to “Allah” (God).

You will find them animated in cafes and bars, smoking water pipes and exclaiming “haram” (it’s a shame) over the latest injustice in the Holy Land or some bad call during a European soccer match.

You will find them seated in restaurants before plates of lamb sausages and salads, pounding their fists on tables and crying “mish maouleh” (impossible) in response to some devilishly tall tale.

You will find them frenzied near altars, elbowing their way to capture the perfect photograph of a loved one exchanging marriage vows and begging “lazza choue” (pardon me).

You will find them bellies bared in dance clubs, twisting their torsos and asking “in jeid?” (really) over the reported affection of some member of the opposite sex.

They are everywhere. They are Lebanese and they have found a home in Montréal.

That the most distinct people of the Middle East have found refuge and new life in the most distinct of Canada’s great cities should come as no surprise. The urbane, gregarious and multilingual Lebanese seem a natural fit for Québec’s cosmopolitan center, whose denizens fiercely protect their Francophone patrimony.

Read more.



7 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Palestinians protested President Trump’s announcement yesterday, in which he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (video: EuroNews/YouTube)

Protests over U.S. move on Jerusalem leave at least 16 injured (BBC) At least 16 Palestinians have been wounded in clashes in the occupied West Bank, during protests against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Reports suggest the injuries are mostly from tear gas and rubber bullets, but at least one was hurt by live fire. Israel has deployed hundreds of extra troops in the West Bank. Mr Trump’s announcement — met with worldwide dismay — reversed decades of US policy on the sensitive issue. Palestinians in the both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have gone on strike and taken to the streets in protest...

Russian military declares ISIS defeated in Syria (Reuters) Russia’s military said on Thursday it had accomplished its mission of defeating Islamic State in Syria, and there were no remaining settlements there under the group’s control. Russian bombers had used unprecedented force in the final stages to finish off the militant group, a senior Russian officer said...

Germany preparing to send refugees back to Syria (Foreign Policy) Later this week, the interior ministers of the German states will be discussing, and voting on, a proposal to be begin forcibly repatriating Syrian refugees once their asylum status lapses — as early as next June...

U.S. vows to keep sanctions on Russia over Ukraine (The Washington Post) U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that Ukraine was the sole sticking point keeping the United States and Russia from forging a closer relationship and that all other disputes were secondary. “The issue that stands in the way is Ukraine,” Tillerson said...

Can Putin get the Romanovs a Christian burial? (Newsweek) There is a political dimension to the story of the royal remains. It is widely believed, although not officially confirmed, that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, would like to organize a symbolic ceremony that would bring closure to Russia’s divisive and bloody twentieth century. Such an event could involve a burial of the two members of the royal family, the czarevich Alexei and his sister Maria, who have never been put to rest, and a solemn church recognition of all other remains as belonging to the Romanovs, who were all inducted into sainthood but whose bodies, from the Russian Orthodox Church’s viewpoint, have never been recovered...



Tags: Syria Palestine Israel Jerusalem Russia

6 December 2017
Greg Kandra




The video above shows Muslims helping restore a church in Mosul, Iraq. (video: YouTube)

This video appeared on Facebook this week: it shows a group of Muslims pitching in to help rebuild and restore a Christian church in Mosul that was desecrated by ISIS.

Our external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., translated the Arabic for us.

The title of the video is: “The Muslim people of Mosul return the cross to the church in the district of Tel Kaif.”

A sign in Syriac and Arabic reads: “Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

Over a picture of the church, the text announces that this was the office of Daesh (ISIS) and a shooting range.

Usama al-Sahir, president of a group called “Giving Without Borders,” narrates:

“Our response to this attack is to strengthen the bonds between Muslims and Christians. We begin with the people of Mosul. As Muslims, we work to strengthen bonds. There is no division between Christians and Muslims. We are beginning today to invite our people and our friends. We say to them: this is your place, return to it. May worship return, God willing. We do this task, which is an obligation...(unclear). God willing, Mosul gathers us together, all of us. We call our Christian brothers to return to Tel Kaif and to return to their churches and to return as before to their religious practices. Next week, we shall turn our efforts to cleaning the Church of the Resurrection.”

This isn’t the first time Muslims have volunteered to help repair a church destroyed by ISIS. A report from earlier this year described efforts to restore a Chaldean church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

For more on displaced Christians returning to Mosul, read Hard Choices in the September 2017 edition of ONE.



6 December 2017
Greg Kandra




A woman lights a candle before a large icon of St. Nicholas in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior last May. A relic of the saint was sent from Bari, Italy, to Russia for veneration at the Moscow cathedral and at an Orthodox cathedral in St. Petersburg from late May to late July.
(photo: CNS/Robert Duncan)


Today marks the feast of St. Nicholas — the figure who would become immortalized in the popular imagination as Santa Claus.

As Michael J.L. La Civita noted a few years back:

According to tradition, Nicholas was born in the mid-third century to a wealthy Christian couple in Patara, a town near the southern shores of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). After the premature death of his parents, Nicholas gave up his wealth and entered a monastery, later traveling to Egypt and the Holy Land. He returned to his monastery, hoping to live quietly as a hermit. However, against his will, he was elected as Bishop of Myra, a small town near Patara.

Although little else is known about Nicholas, his popularity rests on his compassion for the poor and his passion for the faith.

“The reason for this special veneration of this special bishop, who left neither theological works nor other writings,” writes Leonid Ouspensky, a noted Russian theologian, “is evidently that the church sees in him a personification of a shepherd, of its defender and intercessor.”

The Byzantine Catholic Church website today offers this tribute to the beloved saint:

Most of the stories that come to us through history are of him living the Christian life — such as providing a dowry to three young women so they could marry and avoid slavery (the three bags of gold he threw through their windows landed in their stockings, and so today we hang our stockings by the chimney with care). All of the stories about St. Nicholas that come to us through history are about his love for people, especially the poor. St. Nicholas was good. So good that his goodness shines through history — and radiates even from the man in the red suit. Such goodness can only be found in one who dwells intimately with Lord — for He is the only good One (Mt 19:17).

O holy father,
The fruit of your good works enlightens and delights the hearts of the faithful.
Who cannot wonder at your measureless patience and humility?
At your tender care for the poor?
At your compassion for the afflicted?
O holy Nicholas,
You have divinely taught all things well,
Now wearing your unfading crown,
You intercede for our souls.
(From the Vespers of St. Nicholas)

St. Nicholas, pray for us!



6 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis delivers an appeal for Jerusalem during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 6 December. The pope expressed concern following reports that U.S. President Donald Trump plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as the capital of Israel.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


U.S. plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital raising alarm in Middle East (The New York Times) President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American Embassy there, upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians...

Pope appeals for wisdom, prudence to prevail over Jerusalem (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for respect for Jerusalem’s status quo according to the pertinent United Nations Resolutions regarding the city. Speaking after his catechesis to the crowds in the Paul VI Hall during the weekly General Audience, the Pope said “my thoughts go to Jerusalem and I cannot keep silent my deep concern for the situation that has been created in the past days”...

Pope greets Palestinian delegation at audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis before his General Audience on Wednesday, greeted a Palestinian delegation hosted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue...

Protesters clash with police in Kiev (Radio Free Europe) Hundreds of anticorruption protesters clashed with police in Kiev, calling for the ouster of Ukaine’s president, as authorities launched a manhunt to find protest leader Mikheil Saakashvili after his dramatic escape from police custody. Ukrainian Prosecutor-General’s Office spokesman Andriy Lysenko said late on 5 December that the authorities ordered the manhunt for the former Georgian president after a chaotic scene in which Saakashvili’s supporters freed him from a police van after security forces stormed his apartment and detained him...

Indian archdiocese ready to gather evidence on Kandhamal martyrs (Vatican Radio) The Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in eastern India’s Odisha state is preparing to initiate the sainthood cause of those who perished in the 2008 anti-Christian violence by Hindu extremists in Kandhamal district. In a December 3 letter, Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar appointed Father Purushottam Nayak to research and prepare a dossier containing documents for some 100 martyrs of Kandhamal, Mattersindia reported...



Tags: India Ukraine Palestine Israel Jerusalem





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