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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
31 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Residents rummage through the damage and debris left of their homes for their belongings after what activists said was an air attack from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al Assad in Aleppo on 27 July. (photo: CNS/Hamid Khatib, Reuters)

Why fewer ground reports are emerging from Syria (Christian Science Monitor) Many journalists are swearing off crossing the border into Syria, owing less to the threat of violence than the risk of kidnapping. Working in Syria during the war has always been dangerous. Since March 2011, the conflict has claimed the lives of at least 24 journalists and 60 citizen journalists. But for those working inside, there were ways to limit exposure to violence and there was relative comfort in knowing that they could trust those around them. In opposition-controlled areas, Syrians wanted the outside world to hear their story and many locals went to great lengths to protect and welcome foreign reporters. Nearly two and a half years into the war, circumstances have changed…

Pope voices concern over priest missing in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) Pope Francis voiced concern on Wednesday over the fate of an Italian Jesuit priest missing in Syria. “I am thinking of Father Paolo [Dall’Oglio],” the pope, a fellow Jesuit, said at a Mass for members of the order. There have been conflicting reports this week about the fate of Father Dall’Oglio, a priest known for opposing the Syrian regime, with some activists saying they feared he had been kidnapped. But a Catholic charity working in the region, Aid to the Church in Need, said he had gone to meet members of Al Qaeda to demand the release of a captive…

Russian Orthodox Church to give $1 million to Syrian residents (Zee News) The Russian Orthodox Church is preparing to give over $1.3 million to residents of Syrian cities, said Vasily Rulinsky, spokesman of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry. “At the end of June Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia urged believers to help those who fall victims of the armed conflict in Syria. Funds, which were collected by the Russian Orthodox Church eparchies, are being sent to the accounts of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry. Then the funds will be handed over to Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch and All the East, as well as to Supreme Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun of Syria…”

Push for Islamic law in Iraqi Kurdistan stirs controversy (AINA) As religious parties in the Kurdistan Region push for Sharia in the autonomous Iraqi enclave, rights groups warn that this move could curtail freedoms. Opposition Islamic parties in the Kurdistan Region have been pushing for implementation of Article 6 of the enclave’s draft constitution, which states that Sharia is the source of all legislation. Islamic opposition parties have consistently opposed the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s attempts to secularize the constitution, in a country with a predominantly Muslim population but with small Christian and other non-Muslim communities…

Ancient Coptic icons seized at Cairo airport (Egypt Independent) Customs officers at Cairo airport have seized three ancient Coptic icons that someone attempted to smuggle to the United States. Customs chief Mohamed al Shahat said that personnel were suspicious of a parcel that was being shipped to the United States. “We found three ancient Coptic icons in it,” he said. The icons were confiscated and sent to the Ministry of Antiquities…



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Russian Orthodox Church Icons

30 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro






In this video, dated 29 July, Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio is seen addressing a crowd in Raqqa, Syria. His subsequent whereabouts are unknown, with reports suggesting either he has been kidnapped or has become involved in negotiations to release a television crew held hostage. (video: U.F.S.S. Raqqa)

Syria: Jesuit Father Dall’Oglio’s whereabouts uncertain (ANSA) A video posted on Youtube shows Father Paolo Dall’Oglio at an Armenian church in Raqqa, in northern Syria, speaking to a crowd of applauding youths. The priest states that Raqqa, a city home to Kurds and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, should become the symbol of the liberation of Syria. Various reports state that Dall’Oglio had an appointment in Raqqa with the jihadists to mediate for the release of a crew of Syrian journalists and technicians taken hostage a few days ago in the Aleppo region. The first attempt reportedly fell through, while in the second the priest was picked up and taken away. At this point in the story the versions diverge; some say he was taken hostage and other say he is involved in negotiations…

Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate issues statement on kidnapped bishops (Marthoman TV) On Monday, 22 April 2013, Aleppo Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Aleppo Metropolitan Paul of the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped at the hands of an unknown group near the Turkish-Syrian border between Aleppo and Antioch. The two sister churches have publicly and in private and continue today to exert every effort at local, regional and global levels. These efforts concentrated on all types of communication as the two churches pursued every opportunity that was proposed by the loving friends and left no stone unturned to secure their release which to date has not eventuated…

Israelis and Palestinians open talks (Al Jazeera) Israelis and Palestinians have resumed direct talks for the first time in three years, with the United States urging negotiators to make tough compromises to reach a peace deal. The last direct talks collapsed in September 2010 amid continued Israeli settlement building. Israel and the Palestinians remain deeply divided over so-called “final status issues.” These include the fate of Jerusalem — claimed by both as a capital — the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the fate of dozens of Jewish settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank. As a first step, Israel said Sunday it would release 104 Palestinians imprisoned before the 1993 Oslo accords…

Religious proselytism in refugee camps: the Catholic Church stands off (Fides) Christians linked to evangelical groups were filmed distributing gospels and leaflets concerning spiritual reflection in the refugee camp in Zaatari, the main camp for the reception of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war present on Jordanian territory. The movie, on the internet, continues to provoke controversy. “You cannot bring provision and take advantage of that situation to distribute the Gospels,” says Archbishop Maroun Lahham, patriarchal vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. “In that way you are exploiting humanitarian initiatives to achieve forms of proselytism that have nothing to do with the dynamics of authentic Christian witness…”

Syrian rebels to form government late August, says chief (Daily Star Lebanon) The Syrian opposition will form a provisional government in the second half of August after months of failed efforts, Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba said on Tuesday. “I expect a government in exile to be formed around 10 days after Eid al Fitr,” the Muslim feast that falls on 8 or 9 August, he told AFP in Doha. “There are several candidates” for the post of prime minister, he added, saying one “will be chosen by consensus or through election.” The opposition has struggled to put forward a united front during the country’s more than two years of conflict. The last attempt to form a provisional government collapsed earlier in July when rebel Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto resigned after nearly four months of failed efforts…



Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War Middle East Peace Process Refugee Camps human trafficking

29 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate, meets with Metropolitan Volodymyr, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate. To learn more about the status and history of this church, read see the Profile that appeared in the May 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate)

Patriarch: Unification of Ukrainian Orthodox churches not far off (Interfax) Patriarch Filaret noted that there are two distinctive features in the celebration of the 1,025th anniversary of the Christianization of the Kiev Rus — in particular, the fact that the state and the church celebrate the holiday together, and that all Ukrainian churches celebrate it together. He again expressed confidence that the unification of Ukrainian Orthodox churches into in a single local church is not far off…

Attack on Minya churches repelled by residents, security forces (Daily News Egypt) Residents protected Al Azraa and Anba Ebram churches from attacks by alleged Morsi supporters in Minya on Saturday, spokesperson of the archbishop of Mawas monastery Amgad Ezzat has told state-owned MENA agency. “They threw Molotov cocktails at Al Azraa and Anba Ebram churches but were not able to break in as nearby Muslims and Christians were securing the churches,” said Ishak Ibrahim, researcher at Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). He added that the protesters tried to storm in Al Eslah church but were prevented. “However, both Al Eslah church and an annex of the Catholic church were raided before, on 3 July,” he said…

In Egypt, love for Sisi overshadows protester deaths (Christian Science Monitor) The day after at least 74 Islamist protesters were killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces, none of Egypt’s main newspapers on Sunday showed the injured, the dead, or even the vast crowds staging a sit-in against the coup that deposed former President Mohamed Morsi. One newspaper went so far as to blanket the front page with regal photos of Egypt’s military chief, General Abdel Fattah al Sisi, and revered nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser with a headline roughly equivalent to, “Spot on, chief!” The elevation of General Sisi to almost legendary status when well over 200 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in clashes since he led a July 3 coup has raised cries of anguish from a small but vocal segment of Egyptians. They openly wonder how their fellow citizens — including so many who fought for democratic government in the 2011 protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak — have become so deliriously in love with the army, and worry they are blind to the potential for a return to dictatorship…

Rai urges leaders to attend National Dialogue session (Daily Star Lebanon) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai urged rival leaders Sunday to attend National Dialogue sessions to achieve reconciliation, warning that a delay in all-party talks would deepen differences among the Lebanese and increase damage to the country. The patriarch also renewed his call for a new social contract based on the 1943 National Pact aimed at strengthening sectarian coexistence and the equal power-sharing formula between Christians and Muslims…

Millions of Muslims drawn to Marian devotion (AsiaNews) Each year millions of Muslims come on pilgrimage to the Catholic Marian shrines. Not only to the major shrines such as Fatima in Portugal or Harissa in Lebanon, but also to Egypt, Syria and Iran. Muslims — especially Muslim women — go to give thanks to the Madonna or great Christian saints, like St. Charbel or St. George…



Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Christian-Muslim relations Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Ukrainian Orthodox Church

23 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis waves from his popemobile after arriving in Rio de Janeiro on 22 July. (photo: CNS/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters)

Brazil crowds delight Pope Francis, frustrate his guards (Christian Science Monitor) A wrong turn sent a humble Fiat carrying Pope Francis into the thick of a frenzied Rio crowd Monday, in his first minutes back in South America since becoming pontiff. It was a nightmare for security officials, but for the clearly delighted pope just another opportunity to connect. The pope is visiting Brazil on a seven-day visit meant to fan the fervor of the young faithful around the globe. That task has grown more challenging as Roman Catholics stray, even in strongholds of the religion such as Brazil, yet it seemed to come easily to Francis even on the drive from the airport to an official opening ceremony… [The full text of Pope Francis’ arrival speech is available via Vatican Radio.]

In Pictures: Syria’s young refugees (Al Jazeera) Among the Syrian refugees located in camps in Jordan and Lebanon, children face particular hardship. A significant percentage of child fatalities occur while en route to escape the war in Syria. While on this perilous journey, juveniles are often separated from their parents and left to die in the rugged terrain. For such children, life consists of hiding from snipers and shelling, facing extreme weather without shelter, and pursuing desperate measures for nutrition, such as licking moisture from grass…

In Lebanon, more Syrian students than Lebanese expected (Fides) About half of the 6.8 million Syrians in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, both within Syria and across its borders, are school-age children. In September, for the start of the new school year, it is expected that there will be more Syrian refugee students than Lebanese in the public schools. According to the United Nations, the schools are not prepared to accept many refugee children. Compounding the situation is the recruitment of child soldiers…

Monks in Egypt’s lawless Sinai preserve an ancient library (Yahoo! News) Just as they have done for 17 centuries, the Greek Orthodox monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt’s Sinai desert and the local Jabaliya Bedouins worked together to protect the monastery when the 2011 revolution thrust Egypt into a period of uncertainty. Afraid they could be attacked by extremists or bandits in the relatively lawless expanse of desert, the 25 monks put the monastery’s most valuable manuscripts in the building’s storage room. Their Bedouin friends, who live at the base of Saint Catherine’s in a town of the same name, allegedly took up their weapons and guarded the perimeter. The community’s fears of an attack were not realized, but the monks decided they needed a new way to protect their treasured library from any future threats. Last year, they began a program of digitally copying biblical scripts with the help of multispectral imaging specialists from around the world, while simultaneously renovating and modernizing the library itself…

Pope Francis mourns Indian cardinal (Catholic Herald) Indian Cardinal Simon Pimenta, who led the Archdiocese of Bombay for more than 18 years, died on Friday at the age of 93. Sending his condolences to Catholics in Mumbai (as Bombay is now named), Pope Francis remembered the cardinal’s “long years of devoted service to the Catholic community there and his many years of faithful assistance to the successor of Peter as a member of the College of Cardinals.” His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 203 members, 112 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave…



Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Monastery Refugee Camps World Youth Day

22 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2011 image, Abbot Mar Christo tends to the vegetable garden in St. George’s Monastery in Syria’s Wadi al Nasarah. Dating back to the sixth century, the monastery is the region’s oldest extant Christian site. For more, see Syria’s Christian Valley, from the January 2011 issue of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)

The plight of Syrian minorities (Counterpunch) As the conflict in Syria rages, the dire reality of religious and ethnic minorities comes to the surface. On July 18, BBC World News featured reportage on the Syrian government shelling of the town of Al Husun, which lies at the foothill of Krak des Chevaliers. The 11th-century Crusader citadel rests magnificently at the top of a massive hill at the heart of a valley in western Homs known as Wadi al Nasarah — “the Christian Valley.” To its southwest nestles the historic Antiochian Orthodox St. George’s Monastery. As early as March 2011, the Christian Valley became the most sought refuge of the people of Homs, regardless of religion or sect. The valley constitutes some 32 villages, of which 27 are inhabited by Christians — mostly Greek Orthodox. Among the remaining five villages, four are mainly Alawites, leaving only Al Husun inhabited largely by Muslim Sunnis. Despite rising sectarian tensions, the people of the Christian Valley, largely peasants who live off their farms, remain hospitable. Many of them host their neighbors who had to flee Homs and, more recently, Aleppo…

What’s become of Syria’s Christian sites? (Huffington Post) As politicians debate the fate of Syria’s Christian minority, reportedly targeted by Muslim fundamentalists for supporting President Bashar al Assad’s regime, the country’s Christian sites seem to have been forgotten in the two-plus-year civil war. “They cut off the head of the statue of Mary (Lady of the Two Worlds) in Syria’s Jisr al Shaghour region,” wrote Rev. Georges Massouh, a Lebanese Greek Orthodox priest, adding that it was still more acceptable than slaughtering human beings. If the attack aimed to terrorize Christians, they will remain in Syria — whose every grain of soil is a witness to its Christianity — and will be martyrs of love, peace, and Christ’s eternal presence in them, he said this week in the daily Annahar. But the ongoing conflict has definitely taken a toll on Christians, their sites, and the language of Christ…

Orthodox delegations arriving in Moscow for commemoration (Voice of Russia) Delegations of the Orthodox churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Romania, and Cyprus arrived in Moscow today to take part in the festivities marking the 1,025 years since the adoption of the Christian faith by Kievan Rus. The delegations from the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Jerusalem and the Orthodox Church of Cyprus are led by the supreme hierarchs of these churches — Patriarch Theophilos III and Archbishop Chrysostomos II, respectively. The events are scheduled to run from 24-29 July…

Orthodox patriarch calls for reopening of Istanbul’s Halki Seminary (Hurriyet Daily News) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew repeated his call to the Turkish government for the reopening of the Heybeliada Halki Seminary, saying that the religion was entering a dangerous phase due to a lack of proper religious officials. Bartholomew was speaking at an iftar event organized by the Istanbul Mufti office, with Mufti Rahmi Yaran present, where the patriarch mentioned the closed Halki Seminary. “We would like to mention at this time the importance of qualified religious officials in the society. Religious officials should always be properly educated and set examples based on their training throughout their life…”

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks’ resumption put in doubt by both sides (BBC) Moves towards a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were mired in rumors, rebuttals, criticism and confusion on Sunday. In a high-profile dismissal of the embryonic process, Israel’s former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, wrote on Facebook that there was “no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at least not in the coming years, and what’s possible and important to do is conflict-management.” Naftali Bennett, economics minister, insisted construction on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would continue, regardless of talks…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Russian Orthodox Church Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

19 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Five-year-old Battoul al Hassan stands outside her family’s temporary home in Jounieh, Lebanon. To read our recent story on Syrian refugees in Lebanon, see Crossing the Border, from the Spring 2013 issue of ONE. (photo: Tamara Hadi)

CNEWA’s humanitarian fight for Syrian refugees (AsiaNews) The Syrian tragedy is creating tens of thousands of refugees each month. Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is active along the Lebanese border helping displaced Christian families. “In the past year, we have helped more than 11,000 families and 4,000 children,” its regional director Issam Bishara told AsiaNews. “And our work goes on.” In the last 14 months, Catholic Near East Welfare Association has been able to provide food and other aid to 4,474 children and 11,152 Syrian families in need, displaced from an area that runs from Homs to the Lebanese border. For the upcoming school year, the papal agency also plans to provide school supplies to at least 1,500 children in Homs for a period of 160 days…

Israeli law tears Palestinian families apart (Al Jazeera) Thousands of families are affected by the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which prohibits Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza from obtaining permanent or temporary resident status in East Jerusalem or Israel. The citizenship law applies to married couples even when one spouse holds Israeli residency or citizenship. Since Israel’s 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem, a move unrecognized by the international community, Palestinians have rarely been granted citizenship rights, only residency rights. Palestinians live with the threat of having their residency revoked. As a result, a generation of Palestinian children has grown up living in uncertainty and fear…

Egyptian Christians happy Morsi is gone but remain wary (Jerusalem Post) Coptic Christian community is not under any illusion that the army’s installation of an interim government devoid of Islamists spells the end to its long-standing grievances, such as difficulties in getting state jobs, equality before the law and securing permits to build churches. Communal tensions and attacks on Christians and churches rose sharply under Morsi, Egypt’s first freely-elected president. Many Copts, who make up about a tenth of Egypt’s 84 million people, left the country where their ancestors settled in the earliest years of Christianity — several centuries before the arrival of Islam…

After ouster, Egypt’s military and Islamists are far from a deal (New York Times) More than two weeks after the military removed President Mohamed Morsi from power, intense efforts to bring the generals and the ex-president’s Islamist supporters to an agreement have so far come up empty, deepening Egypt’s political crisis. The efforts, according to intermediaries, have been stymied by the military’s refusal so far to release Mr. Morsi and several aides, who are held incommunicado and have not been charged with crimes. In Mr. Morsi’s absence, members of his movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, have continued to demand that the military’s intervention be reversed as a precondition for any settlement…



Tags: Egypt Refugees CNEWA Middle East Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict

18 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro





In this video, the BBC’s Ahmed Maher reports on the violent backlash against Christians in Egypt since Muhammad Morsi was forced from office. (video: BBC)

Egyptian Coptic church destroyed by looters (BBC) There has been a string of attacks on Christians in different provinces in Egypt since Muhammad Morsi was forced from office, with Coptic Christians saying they have been singled out for campaigning against him. In the village of Dalga, near the central Egyptian city of Minya, a church was looted and destroyed and the priest, Father Ayoub Youssef, had to flee for his life. He said Muslim neighbours helped his escape from the roof of his house. “Had it not been for them, I would have been lynched,” he said.…

Coptic pope suspends public catechesis for security reasons (Fides) Yesterday, Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II canceled for the third consecutive time the weekly meeting of public prayer and catechesis he typically holds on Wednesday afternoon in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. Coptic Catholic Bishop Boutros Fahim Awad Hanna of Minya has noted that since 30 June, “Pope Tawadros avoids appearing in public, not so much because he fears for his life, but because he does not want people to gather for fear that some fool could throw a few bombs. At the moment there are those who accuse Christians of being responsible of the popular uprising…”

Israeli-Palestinian talks: speculation mounts on possible breakthrough (The Guardian) The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has convened a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah amid mounting speculation about an imminent breakthrough that may bring Israel and Palestine back to the negotiating table. Israeli President Shimon Peres further raised expectations in a statement which said: “From the latest information at my disposal, [United States Secretary of State John Kerry] has succeeded in progressing the chance for opening peace talks. … The coming days are crucial and we are within touching distance.” Both parties, he added, were “making an effort to overcome the final obstacles…”

Bridge to nowhere: Syrian refugees in Greece (Al Jazeera) Syrians fleeing war spend every resource at their disposal and risk life and limb to arrive in Greece, but safe arrival is no guarantee of an easier life. While the war rages, Greek authorities will not deport Syrian refugees, but nor will they support them in any way. Without residence permits, it is next to impossible for them to work legally. Many are reduced to begging. Others live off the charity of the Greek Orthodox Church and community organizations. It is easy to be picked up during police stop-and-search operations targeting undocumented migrants. Syrians can end up jailed for months while their nationality is verified. Once inside a detention center, police brutality is all too frequent. Greece is experiencing a severe backlash against migrants, legal and illegal, as a six-year recession has driven unemployment to 27 percent…

Bulgarian Orthodox Church appoints new acting metropolitan of Varna (Sofia Globe) The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church appointed Dorostol Metropolitan Ambrosii as temporary metropolitan of Varna on 18 July. Metropolitan Ambrosii will hold the position until the election of a new metropolitan, who would replace Metropolitan Kiril, found dead on a Black Sea beach earlier this month. After Kiril’s death, the Holy Synod named Vratsa Metropolitan Kalinik as acting Varna Metropolitan, but Kalinik withdrew after clergy and laity wrote to the Holy Synod objecting to his appointment…



Tags: Violence against Christians Middle East Peace Process Immigration Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II Bulgarian Orthodox Church

17 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from Sunday, 7 July 2013, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I presides over the concelebration of the Divine Liturgy for the patronal feast of the Church of St. Kyriaki in Kontoskali, Istanbul, with Metropolitans Germanos of Theodoroupolis and Athenagoras of Kydonies. Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Myra was also in attendance. (photo: N. Manginas/The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)

Ecumenical patriarch sympathizes with protests, prays for kidnapped bishops (AsiaNews) Ramadan has not stopped anti-government protests, which began with the events of Gezi Park. At an iftar (the traditional dinner after the daily fast during Ramadan) offered by the mayor of Istanbul to leaders of non-Muslim religious minorities, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I showed his interest in and sympathy for the protests, which are a sign of the growing desire for democracy and justice in Turkish society. In a veiled reference to the protests in Gezi Park, the patriarch said, “We are excited and joyful witnesses to important facts that seek to find a solution to long-standing situations that have accumulated over the years in Turkish society even though they cause divisions and polarization.” In his brief but tough speech, Bartholomew mentioned the kidnapping of Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Yohanna, expressing concern for their fate and inviting all those present at the iftar dinner to pray for them…

Concern for Syrian refugees grows (Vatican Radio) Suspected rebel gunmen assassinated a well-known supporter of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Lebanon today, the latest sign that Syria’s civil war is spreading to its smaller neighbor. It was the first assassination of a pro-Assad figure in Lebanon since Syria’s conflict started more than two years ago. Meanwhile, the United Nations has appealed for more humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees…

After Morsi, Christians and churches targeted by Islamists (AsiaNews) More than 100 Christian families have fled Al Arish in the Sinai after receiving death threats from Islamist groups following the fall of Muhammad Morsi. Currently, Coptic churches in northern Sinai have canceled all services and meetings, except for the Divine Liturgy on Friday. No Christians are left in the towns of Rafah and Sheikh Zowayd. The Sinai Peninsula has always been a home for Islamist groups, many of them linked to Hamas in Gaza. For decades, they have fought against the Egyptian army as it tried to stop weapon supplies and smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Under Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the army had reduced pressure on them but now the military is back in force following the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s successor…

Russian, Serbian patriarchs criticize Serbian government (B92) Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej has conferred with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in the Russian Patriarchate in Moscow. The Serbian church head sought the aid of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government in the preservation of Kosovo and Metohija, leveling criticism at the Serbian authorities. Patriarch Irinej underlined that Serbia must not renounce Kosovo and Metohija, because that would imply renouncing its history, culture, spirituality and holy sites. Patriarch Kirill remarked that the Russian Orthodox Church agrees with the stands of its sister church in terms of Kosovo and Metohija, and he also criticized Serbia’s political leadership…

Roma integration idles (Al Jazeera) The Roma are Europe’s biggest ethnic minority. For decades they have been victims of racism, discrimination and social exclusion. In 2005 twelve European countries declared “the decade of Roma inclusion” and, in 2011, the European Union established a framework for their integration. But in its latest report, the E.U. Commission concluded that not only has inadequate progress been made but that the majority of states failed to allocate sufficient resources for Roma inclusion…

Grassroots ‘ecumenical friendship’ strengthens Catholic-Orthodox relations (Catholic World Report) Rather than collecting dust on a Vatican shelf, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter “Orientale Lumen” (“Light of the East”), which encourages Latin Catholics to better know the traditions of the Christian East, has continued to inspire a Washington, D.C.-based grassroots ecumenical movement for almost two decades. Initially planned as a single meeting to discuss the pope’s work, the Orientale Lumen Conference has become an annual gathering open to anyone. In some ways, it has kept the light of Orthodox-Catholic dialogue burning even while official dialogues hit roadblocks…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Ecumenism Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Roma

16 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis greets the crowd after praying the Angelus at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, on 14 July. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis prays for the victims of the Volhynia Massacre (VIS) Following Sunday’s Angelus, the pope commemorated the massacres of Volhynia in June 1943, a tragic episode during World War II in which tens of thousands of people lost their lives. He said: “I join in prayer with the prelates and faithful of the church in Ukraine, gathered in the cathedral of Lutsk for the Holy Mass of the souls of the deceased on the seventieth anniversary of the massacres at Volhynia. Those actions, provoked by nationalist ideology in the tragic context of the Second World War, claimed tens of thousands of victims and damaged the fraternity between the two peoples, the Polish and the Ukrainian. I entrust to the mercy of God the souls of the victims and, for their people, I ask the grace of profound reconciliation and of a peaceful future in hope and in sincere collaboration in building together the Kingdom of God…”

Monastery under attack; nuns appeal to Palestinian president (Fides) The nuns of the Greek Orthodox monastery in Bethany have sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to urge the leaders of the Palestinian Authority to take charge, with appropriate measures, of the escalation of attacks that the site has been suffering lately: thrown stones, broken glass, theft and looting of the monastery property as part of a campaign of intimidation. “We do not exclude,” wrote the Mother Superior Sister Ibraxia in her letter to President Abbas, “that behind these attacks there are those who want to foment discord among the children of the Palestinian nation…”

Greek Orthodox patriarch: Syrian people committed to unity and peace (SANA) Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch and All the East stressed that the Syrian people are committed to the territorial integrity of Syria, adding that efforts should be exerted for Syria to restore peace, security and stability. During a visit to Lattakia province, he called on the neighboring countries to exert efforts for peaceful political solution to the crisis in Syria, which was and will remain the homeland for dialogue, fraternity, amity and peace…

NGO claims Egyptian state is failing to respond to attacks on copts (Daily Star Lebanon) Egypt’s Christians have been targeted in a wave of attacks since the ouster of Islamist President Muhammad Morsi, and the state is failing to protect them, an NGO said Monday. Sectarian violence since the latest political upheaval in Egypt began has killed four Coptic Christians in Luxor governorate, with churches elsewhere torched and looted, said the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “What is disturbing is the failure of the security apparatus to act — which at times looks like collusion — to protect citizens and their property who are being targeted on the basis of their religion,” the EIPR’s Ishak Ibrahim said in a statement…

Israel begins deporting Eritrean refugees to troubled African homeland (Los Angeles Times) In an acceleration of its controversial crackdown on African asylum seekers, Israel has begun sending Eritrean refugees back to their restive homeland, where they face uncertain and potentially perilous futures. The first planeload of 14 Eritreans left Israel over the weekend and the government is expected to repatriate about 200 more in the coming days, according to refugee-rights groups. After receiving a flood of about 60,000 African refugees over the last seven years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the influx a threat to the country’s security and Jewish character…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Palestine Israel Eastern Europe

12 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




An instructor at the Don Bosco Institute oversees the work of his students in a technology class in Cairo. Run by the Salesians of Don Bosco and supported by CNEWA, the institute enables Egyptians from all economic backgrounds to learn a trade to improve their lives and communities. (photo: Shawn Baldwin)

CNEWA focuses on supporting the churches in Egypt and Syria (B.C. Catholic) The Christian population in Syria faces a threat of being “wiped out,” says Carl Hétu, national secretary of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association Canada (CNEWA). “It’s become a Sunni/Shia battleground, and that’s not going to go away soon,” said Hétu. “The big losers are the Christians.” That’s why CNEWA is focusing its assistance on supporting the churches in Syria. “The Church in the Middle East is in survival mode, whether under the Ottoman Empire, or dictatorship, it has always adapted to the reality of the time, to play its humanitarian role,” he said. That humanitarian role is why the support of the churches is crucial, he said. In Egypt in the wake of a military coup that deposed the Islamist government, the future may be somewhat brighter for Christians there than in Syria, Hétu said. The patriarchs of the Catholic and the Orthodox Copts are working together in a new spirit of ecumenism, uniting the Christians, he said. Christian leaders and working “hand in hand” with Muslims who reject the repressive regime Muslim Brotherhood were imposing on Egypt. “The work of CNEWA is focusing on sustaining, helping and working with the local Catholic Coptic Church of Egypt,” Hétu said. That includes supporting their seminary, their seminarians, and religious in formation, as well as churches’ work in education, social services, health care and aid for children…

Catholics urged to pray for victims of Syria conflict (Vatican Radio) The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, is presiding at a Mass in London’s Westminster Cathedral on Friday to pray for all those suffering the effects of the civil war in Syria. In a statement issued earlier in the week, all of the English and Welsh church leaders call on Catholics to pray for a peaceful solution to the conflict and to offer whatever practical support they can through aid agencies that are operating in the region. For further details, Philippa Hitchen spoke with Dr. Harry Hagopian, Middle East advisor to the bishops in England and Wales…

Survey: Lebanese support for Syrian refugees flagging (Fides) A recent poll claims 54 percent of Lebanon’s citizens want to see their borders closed to further refugees. As many as 90 percent expressed a desire to limit the heretofore unrestricted access granted to those fleeing Syria’s civil war. The survey was sponsored by the Norwegian Fafo Research Foundation and published only because of the reactions raised by the Lebanese people due to the size of the influx of refugees. The reasons for the growing discontent are mainly economic and social order: 82 percent of respondents believe that refugees take away work from the Lebanese causing a fall in wages, while 66 percent of their prolonged presence is likely to undermine the management of water and energy resources of the country. These results also indicate the growth of xenophobic inclination: More than 80 percent of respondents respond negatively to the possibility of one of their relatives marrying a Syrian, while 53 percent are worried by the idea that Syrian children are eligible to attend the same school classes as their children…

Egypt calls for new look at Morsi prison escape in 2011 (New York Times) Egypt’s new rulers gave new credence to a court case against the ousted president, Muhammad Morsi, and members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday over their escape from prison during the uprising that toppled his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. No charges have yet been filed. Its acceptance by powerful prosecutors follows the arrest of many Muslim Brotherhood members and is a new blow to the group by the military-backed government. The detentions have been criticized by rights groups and the Obama administration, which spent Thursday walking back remarks made early in the day by a State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, seeming to criticize Mr. Morsi as undemocratic and in so doing seeming to validate the military’s move to oust him…

Orthodox Church formalizes objection to constitutional declaration (Egypt Independent) Today, the Coptic Orthodox Church submitted to the Egyptian presidency a memorandum of legal objections to the recent constitutional declaration, a state-run news website quoted the Rev. Felopateer Gamil Aziz of Virgin Church in Faisal as writing on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. The church understands the nature of the constitutional declaration in the transitional phase and proposes the preparation of a new constitution for the country, different than the suspended constitution, he said. A meeting will be held today between the church and advisers of the interim president to discuss these objections, he said…



Tags: Egypt Refugees CNEWA Syrian Civil War CNEWA Canada





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