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Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
21 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis will carry forward a tradition he kept in Buenos Aires: celebrating Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper in a prison, a hospital or a shelter for the poor and marginalized. He is expected to wash the feet of inmates in a ritual highlighting humility, service and love. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass in prison (CNS) Pope Francis has decided to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper in a Rome juvenile detention facility and wash the feet of some of the young detainees. It marks a change in venue of the previously scheduled 28 March Holy Week event — normally held in either St. Peter’s Basilica or the Basilica of St. John Lateran — to Rome’s Casal del Marmo prison for minors. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis used to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in prisons, hospitals or shelters for the poor and marginalized. “With the celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue that practice, which must be carried out in a context characterized by simplicity,” the Vatican said in a 21 March statement. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper highlights “the commandment of love” and service through the ritual of washing the feet of others, the statement said…

Ecumenical patriarch’s inaugural attendance: First time in history? (Archon News) One of the most intriguing recent developments was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I's decision to attend Pope Francis’ installation as bishop of Rome. The occasion is being presented in the media as something that has not happened since the ecclesiastical schism that separated Christian East and Christian West in the eleventh century. But that characterization is almost certainly wrong — this is quite likely the first time in history that a bishop of Constantinople will attend the installation of a bishop of Rome. And this is a profoundly bold step in ecumenical relations between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, one that could have lasting significance…

Full text of Pope Francis’ interfaith discourse available (Vatican Radio) On Wednesday, 20 March 2013, Pope Francis received several dozen representatives of the various Christian churches and other world religions, who attended his inauguration. Among them were several leaders from the Orthodox Church, Orthodox Oriental Church, the Anglican Communion, and various Protestant churches, including the Lutheran, Baptist and Methodist churches. Representatives from the Jewish and Muslim faiths were also present. Please find below Vatican Radio’s translation of the pope’s discourse…

Middle East Christians in danger, Melkite patriarch warns (AKI) Christian minorities in the Middle East are under threat, especially in conflict-wracked Syria. His Beatitude Gregory III, Melkite Greek Catholic patriarch of Antioch, has conveyed this concern to Pope Francis, Adnkronos International (AKI) has learned. “The crises in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, are endangering Christians present in the region,” Patriarch Gregory III said, quoting a letter he said he has written to the pope. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was responsible for the Catholic community in the Middle East and was a point of contact for immigrants from Lebanon, Syria and all the countries in that region. “I hope that the pope will ensure a better future for all Arab countries and their peoples,” concluded the Syrian-born patriarch…

Patriarch emeritus has low expectations for U.S. diplomatic visit (Fides) “All the great people in the world come to visit us. They arrive and depart, and our reality does not change. We are in the same situation,” says Latin Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah, commenting on U.S. President Barack Obama’s first visit to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan. “Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no external pressure can really change things. Only Israel can decide to proceed on the path of peace or to maintain the status quo. No one can change this situation from the outside. Everything is in the hands of Israel…”

Gaza may face severe water crisis (Al Monitor) Figures issued by public and private institutions suggest the Gaza Strip is in imminent danger of a water crisis. Fresh water for domestic and agricultural use has become scarce. Moreover, according to Omar Shabat, the technical director of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, 90 to 95 percent of underground water for domestic consumption is contaminated to varying degrees. This portends the spread of diseases among locals and could make the sector unlivable…



Tags: Pope Francis Gaza Strip/West Bank Ecumenism Israeli-Palestinian conflict Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

20 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus, 71, was elected and enthroned as head of the Cyprus Orthodox Church in November 2006. (photo: Cyprus Orthodox Church)

Cyprus Orthodox Church offers to help bail out state (CBS News) The head of Cyprus’ influential Orthodox church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, says he will put the church’s assets at the country’s disposal to help pull it out of a financial crisis, after lawmakers rejected a plan to seize up to 10 percent of people’s bank deposits to secure an international bailout. It wasn’t immediately clear what the total value of the church’s assets would be, or how much of that value the church was actually willing to lend the government…

Pope ‘determined’ to continue toward unity (AsiaNews) Pope Francis has a “strong desire” to continue the ecumenical journey towards the “noble cause” of Christian unity. He has also stated his confidence that the “fraternal dialogue” with the Jewish people will continue. Further, he expressed his appreciation for the presence of Muslims at the ceremony marking the beginning of his pontificate. This morning’s meeting with 33 delegations from churches and religious denominations, Christian and non-Christian, who attended the inaugural mass of the new Pope was an insight into this pontificate’s line regarding relations with other Christians and religions, and even those who “do not even belong to any religions but who feel close to the truth and beauty.” The Pope responded to the warm greetings of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, calling him Andrew — the name of the apostle founder and patron of the patriarchate. “Yesterday morning,” he said, “during Holy Mass, through your presence, I recognized the spiritual presence of the community you represent. In this manifestation of faith, the prayer for unity among believers in Christ seemed even more urgent to men and together somehow to see prefigured this full realization, which depends on the divine plan and our sincere cooperation...”

Catholic commission writes to U.S. president in honor of visit (Fides) On the occasion of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit in the Middle East, which began with his arrival in Israel today, Wednesday, 20 March, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land has written the president a letter. The missive is intended to draw his attention to some major problems that affect the presence of Christians in the region. “The Palestinian people,” reads the letter, are living their “46th year under occupation. And the plight of Palestinian Christians is the same as experienced by the Palestinian people as a whole…”

Pope Francis calls pope emeritus to wish him happy feast day (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to wish him well on the feast of St. Joseph, 19 March. The Argentine pope, who placed the call to his German predecessor shortly after 5 p.m. Rome time, Tuesday, once again expressed gratitude to the pope emeritus for his long service to the church. Since his resignation on 28 February, Pope Benedict has been staying at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, in the countryside of Rome, until restoration work on his new residence in the Vatican is completed…

Lebanon’s Catholics fear incursion of Islamic fundamentalism (Global Post) Even though Beirut is no longer cleaved into Muslim and Christian sides by the Green Line — the five-mile long, overgrown barricade erected during Lebanon’s 1975-1991 civil war — some Christians still feel like their presence here is not guaranteed. An influx of refugees from the civil war in neighboring Syria has Christians in Lebanon anxious that religious violence against them could reappear here. A swath of leaders, from U.S. President Barack Obama to Pope Benedict XVI, have identified post-war Lebanon as a model for the world. Archbishop Paul Sayah, the vicar general of the Maronite patriarch and the Maronite Church’s second-ranking clergy member, believes that the survival and continuity of Lebanon’s Christians carries global implications. “If this formula does fade in Lebanon, the message to the world is that religions can’t live together, cultures can’t work together, and the alternative is war of religions,” says Archbishop Sayah. “This is the importance of Lebanon”…



Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI Holy Land Cyprus President Obama

18 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, pictured above in a 2009 photo, will be attending the inauguration of Pope Francis — the first time an ecumenical patriarch has done so since the Great Schism. (photo: CNS/Larry Downing, Reuters)

Ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople to attend pope’s inauguration (AsiaNews) In an unprecedented gesture, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will attend Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass. The Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Office informed AsiaNews about the decision, noting that this is the first time such an event has occurred since the Catholic-Orthodox split in 1054 — an important sign for Christian unity. Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have been improving since the Second Vatican Council through mutual visits, acts of friendship and theological dialogue…

Palestinians hope new pope will continue Vatican support for them (Al Monitor) Palestinians and peoples of the Middle East have been searching hard in the new pontiff’s history to try and figure out where he will stand on the issues that are of concern to them. Two issues were prominently talked about in this regard. The Jesuit background of the new pope was quickly seen as a good sign; in the Middle East, Jesuits are known to have established schools of higher education and other projects supporting the poor. His status as a non-European also ensures, many believe, a more international perspective at the Vatican. The Vatican has generally been supportive of Palestinian rights and the need to end the occupation of Palestine. But, equally, the leaders of the Catholic Church have placed tremendous efforts to improve relations with Israel…

Patriarch: Serbs must return to Kosovo (B92) “One of the first … items in the talks, today and tomorrow, a condition and request we need to set is the return of a large number of Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija,” Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej said at a ceremony marking the ninth anniversary of the March Pogrom in Kosovo. Patriarch Irinej noted that 240,000 Serbs had been expelled from Kosovo and that it was the country’s obligation to help those who still lived in Kosovo and the displaced to return to their homes. “If we survived five centuries under Turks, we will survive this as well. We must not despair”…

Bulgarian Orthodox Church nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (Novinite) The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has been nominated by for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize by MP Lachezar Toshev. The occasion is the 70th anniversary of Bulgaria rescuing its Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Toshev says he wants to make the above fact more popular and globally known, stressing the involvement of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the rescue of Jews is unprecedented on international scale and must be recognized…

After two years of Syrian violence, religious sisters continue aid (EWTN) While the world marks the second anniversary of demonstrations that began what is now the Syrian civil war, the Sisters of Charity of Besancon continue to help the poor of the country’s capital. “Everybody is afraid. They don’t know how long they have to live,” Sister Marie-Joseph Chanaa told Aid to the Church in Need on 13 March. “When someone goes to work he doesn’t know if he’ll come home again.” Sister Chanaa and five other Sisters of Charity work and pray in Damascus to care for their neighbors, who are caught in the midst of war. She said that they pray daily for peace and she encourages those she helps to maintain hope…



Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Palestinians Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Bulgarian Orthodox Church

13 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Black smoke emits from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican shortly before noon on 13 March to signify that a new pope was not elected. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

More black smoke on morning of conclave’s first full day (CNS) More black smoke poured from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at 11:40 a.m. on 13 March, which seemed to indicate the 115 cardinal electors failed to elect a pope on their second and third ballots. The cardinals had voted once on 12 March without electing a pope. According to the schedule published before the conclave, the cardinals were to take two votes in the morning of their first full day in the Sistine Chapel and return to their residence at 1 p.m. for lunch if the voting was unsuccessful. Ballots are burned a maximum of twice a day: White smoke would pour out of the chimney at mid-morning or mid-afternoon if one candidate received the 77 votes needed to be elected pope; and black smoke would puff out at midday or late evening if the two morning or two evening ballots were unsuccessful…

Chaldean patriarch says church institutions must be fair and transparent (Fides) On Tuesday, 12 March, Patriarch Louis Raphael I — who celebrated his inaugural Mass on Wednesday, 6 March — issued a statement calling on all responsible institutions linked to the Chaldean Church to follow principles of fairness and transparency in the management of financial resources. He recommended everyone to follow the procedures laid down by the laws on accounting, setting aside discretionary practices. The intent of the provisions set out in the statement is to “preserve the reputation and credibility of the church”…

Gaza’s Orthodox church celebrates 1,606 years (Al Monitor) In the only Orthodox church in Gaza, surrounded by saints’ icons hanging on the walls, young and old churchgoers join Greek Orthodox Bishop Alexios in hymns, hold candles and burn incense, filling the place with an air of serenity. They pray in celebration of the 1,606th anniversary of the founding of St. Porphyrius Church in Gaza City, which was built in the year 407 A.D. While today Christians in the Gaza Strip number around 1,500 people — mostly Greek Orthodox — in the mid-1990s there were as many as 5,000 Christians…

U.N., Jordan to tackle crime in Syrian refugee camp (Daily Star Lebanon) The U.N. refugee chief says his agency is working with Jordan to bolster security at a camp for Syrian refugees where reports of drug trafficking, prostitution and other crimes have emerged. Antonio Guterres says the Zaatari camp near the Jordanian-Syrian border now is de facto Jordan’s fourth-largest city, with a “complex” environment. Jordan currently hosts 450,000 Syrian refugees…

Interfaith dialogue held in Cochin (New Indian Express) The Cochin-based International Interfaith Dialogue India (IIDI) held a seminar to discuss “Religion and Human Values” this weekend. “The aim of all religions is the striving for justice, peace and co-operation,” said Shri Prasanna Venkatachariar Chaturvedi Swamy, the founder of the Sri Ramanuja Mission Trust, Tamil Nadu. “Through one’s faith one should help the needy, irrespective of religious barriers.” The messages of Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, the chief patron of the IIDI, and Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, were presented via video…



Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan Vatican Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Chaldean Church

12 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, presides over the Mass for the election of the Roman pontiff in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 12 March. Concelebrating were some 170 cardinals, including 115 under 80 who were to enter the conclave in the Sistine Chapel that afternoon. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

In pre-conclave sermon, Cardinal Sodano calls for unity (CNS) Hours before the start of the conclave that will choose the next pope, the dean of the College of Cardinals celebrated the papacy as a source of unity among Catholics and of evangelization and charitable service to the world. Christ “has established his apostles and among them Peter, who takes the lead, as the visible foundation of the unity of the church,” Cardinal Angelo Sodano said in his homily at St. Peter’s Basilica March 12. “Each of us is therefore called to cooperate with the successor of Peter, the visible foundation of such an ecclesial unity.” Cardinal Sodano’s homily included words of thanks for the “brilliant pontificate” of Pope Benedict XVI, which prompted more than 30 seconds of applause. The cardinal quoted the retired pope’s description of charity as a “constitutive element of the church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her being”…

Coptic Catholic leadership enthroned in Cairo, voting in Rome (Fides) After a period of spiritual retreat, His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, elected Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria on 15 January, has taken possession of his patriarchal see. The enthronement liturgy occurred today in the Coptic Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin, in Cairo. At the same time, in Rome, the Pro Eligendo Roman Pontiff Mass began at the Basilica of St. Peter, presided by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals. The liturgy in Rome will also be attended by the Egyptian Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Coptic Catholic patriarch emeritus of Alexandria, who in January had to give up the exercise of his patriarchal ministry for health reasons…

Iraq’s new Sunni awakening (Al Monitor) Protesters in Iraq are calling for an end to sectarian discrimination by the Iraqi government and unfair treatment of Arab Sunnis. Osama al Nujaifi, the speaker of parliament and a leader of the largest government coalition, told Al Jazeera in an interview that Iraqi Sunnis are a majority in Iraq, denying the Shiite claims of the same. Ahmed Abu Risha, the former leader of the “Awakening group” that allied with the US army in the battle against al Qaeda in Anbar, maintained in another TV interview that Baghdad is a Sunni city. The protesters’ calls last February to “march on Baghdad” symbolized the emerging Sunni narrative in which Baghdad is presented as the “promised land” that must be redeemed by its original owners…

Islamists continue push for a puritanical Egypt (L.A. Times) The brother of al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri is an unflinching man with a graying beard whose aim, as a Salafi, is to impose Islamic law on the divided country that has emerged since the overthrow of secular autocrat Hosni Mubarak two years ago. Seated at a rooftop cafe as dusk draped the Nile, traffic screeching and lights flickering in the ancient city below, he wagged a finger in the air and spoke of an “epic battle” to scour Egypt of corruption and immorality. “God’s teachings must be carried out,” said Mohammed Zawahiri, an engineer who was acquitted by a military court last year after being imprisoned for more than a decade on charges of attempting to overthrow the state. Once at the edges of Egypt’s political spectrum, puritanical Islamists known as Salafis have been emboldened by the nation’s revolution…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Vatican Coptic Catholic Church Papacy

8 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit was elected and enthroned on Sunday, 24 February 2013, following the death of Patriarch Maxim on 6 November. (photo: Russian Orthodox Church)

Bulgarian Orthodox patriarch urges against further protester suicides (Sofia Globe) Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit has called on protesters not to go to the extreme of committing suicide, an appeal made after three cases of self-immolation in the country in recent weeks. The death of Plamen Goranov, who died several days after setting himself on fire outside the Varna municipal offices after calling on mayor Kiril Yordanov to resign, was at the forefront of national attention and prompted the Cabinet to declare a day of national mourning on 6 March. The church leader said that the suicide was tragic, and whatever the motives and goals, they were in contradiction with Christian morality…

Cardinal Timothy Dolan shares a glimpse of the cardinals’ activities (Archdiocese of NY) “We cardinals sure are praying a lot. Every day we each begin with the most effective prayer of all, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In our sessions we pray from the Divine Office, begin each meeting with the ancient prayer to the third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Veni Sancte Spiritus, and we break at lunch with the beautiful words of the Angelus. Wednesday, we cardinals made a Holy Hour of adoration before Jesus, really and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, at the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica. We’re praying a lot; and, from what I hear, so are you. Thanks! … We spend most of our time discussing issues such as preaching; teaching the faith; celebrating the seven sacraments; inviting back those believers who have left; serving the sick and poor…”

Cardinals to vote on conclave date tonight (VIS) “The eighth General Congregation that will meet this evening will vote on the date to begin the conclave,” announced Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office. “It is likely,” he clarified, “that the Conclave will begin early next week: perhaps Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. It definitely will not be tomorrow or Sunday. Tomorrow a General Congregation will only take place in the morning and on Sunday it is expected that the cardinals will visit their titular churches in the city to pray. They are under no obligation to do so, but it is likely that they will”…

Concerns over Islamic extremism bringing Eastern Christian churches closer (Al Monitor) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter last month conducted a four-day visit to Moscow on the invitation of Patriarch Kirill I. The meeting is significant and constitutes an advanced step taken by the Maronite leader to bring Eastern churches of various doctrines into closer cooperation. The Kremlin and the Vatican have both expressed support for such endeavors seeking to protect the Christian minorities in the East, whose survival is being challenged by the dominance of Islamic forces over the Arab Spring movements. An inside source says the patriarchs discussed several topics related to preserving and fortifying the Christian presence in the Middle East — and the Maronite patriarchal edifice in Lebanon represents a strategic fulcrum in this regard. Lebanon is a rallying point for Christian presence in the region…

A mother inspires the fight for Palestinian rights (Al Monitor) On 8 March every year, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements for International Women’s Day. In the spirit of the day, lawyer-activist Shireen Issawi writes about how her mother inspired her and her brother, Samer Issawi, who has been on a hunger strike in an Israeli prison for some 222 days, to fight for Palestinian independence…



Tags: Vatican Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Palestinians Patriarch Kirill Papacy

7 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 20 October 2011 photo, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter listens to a reporter’s question during a news conference at CNEWA’s New York headquarters, with CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar seated nearby. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Cardinal and patriarch discusses conclave from a Middle Eastern perspective (Vatican Insider) He was one of the last to land in Rome but he got to work immediately alongside the other cardinals. Yesterday, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch, Cardinal Bechara Peter, handed cardinals a dossier on the situation of Christians in the Middle East: “The universal church and the next pope must never forget that Christianity has its origins in the Middle East. And they should keep in mind what is happening to Christian communities in the Middle East. This is a priority that cannot be ignored,” the Lebanese cardinal told Vatican Insider in an exclusive interview…

Maronite patriarch selected as cardinal assistant (Daily Star Lebanon) Cardinal and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter has been very busy; aside from advocating for Middle East Christians to the rest of the cardinals in Rome for the conclave (see above) and actively and vigorously pursuing ecumenical relations (see yesterday), now he has been selected as a cardinal assistant, one of the three charged with helping the Cardinal Camerlengo Tarcisio Bertone manage the day-to-day operations of the Vatican…

No conclave date, but cardinals develop ‘profile’ of new pope (CNS) Although the world’s cardinals have not set a date to begin the conclave to elect a new pope, they have begun discussing “the profile” required of the next pope to meet the needs of the church, the Vatican spokesman says. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, like everyone in the hall for the cardinals’ meetings, has taken an oath of secrecy, although he is allowed to give the press an idea of the broad themes discussed. During the 6 March session, he said, 18 cardinals spoke and the principal themes were: “The church in the world today and the needs for the new evangelization; the Holy See, the Roman Curia and their relationship with the bishops; the expectations for and a profile of the future pope that result from these expectations of the world and the needs for the good governing of the church”…

Syrian rebels claim U.N. observers were rescued, not kidnapped (Washington Post) A Syrian rebel group that once claimed it had abducted a group of about 20 United Nations observers in the Golan Heights announced Thursday that it had in fact rescued them from fighting in the area and called on the U.N. to send a security convoy to pick them up. The announcement by the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade was posted on the same Facebook page that was used to publicize the abduction Wednesday. A video in which the kidnappers warned that the observers would not be released until Syrian President Bashar al Assad withdrew troops from the area had been deleted. “With God’s help we managed to secure a group of U.N. members working in the border town of Jamleh after they were victims of the criminal shelling of Assad’s gangs,” the statement said. “We request from the United Nations to send us a security convoy so that we can deliver them to the organization. … We have nothing to do with any of the old statements before this one”…

Upcoming Egyptian elections cancelled (Turkish Weekly) The Egyptian Administrative Court on Wednesday cancelled President Mohammad Morsi’s four-stage elections planned for 21 April. The Court said the Egyptian Constitutional Court’s demand for changes in the elections laws were not implemented. Political experts expect the Egyptian Administrative Court’s decision to increase tension in the country…



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Vatican Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Papacy

6 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 28 February photo, U.S. Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Sean P. O’Malley of Boston leave the Pontifical North American College in Rome on their way to a final meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. In the lead-up to the conclave, U.S. cardinals have canceled their popular daily press briefings. (photo: CNS/Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)

American cardinals cancel press briefings ahead of conclave (CBS News) The U.S. cardinals in Rome for the conclave to elect the next pope canceled their popular daily press briefings Wednesday after some details of the secret proceedings under way ahead of the election were purportedly leaked to Italian newspapers. The Vatican denies it had exerted any pressure on the American cardinals to keep quiet. But the Vatican spokesman, the Father Federico Lombardi, made clear that the Holy See considered this week’s pre-conclave meetings, in which cardinals are discussing the problems of the church, to be secret and part of a solemn process to choose a pope. “The college as a whole has decided to maintain a line of an increasing degree of reserve,” he said…

Maronite patriarch says ecumenical summit ahead (Fides) “We are preparing a meeting of all Orthodox and Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East, to promote unity among Christians and deal with the problems and suffering that we share in this difficult moment in history,” said Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter of Antioch, currently in Rome for the conclave. Patriarch Bechara Peter has been laying the groundwork for such ecumenical activities for some time: In early November, he had attended the enthronement of the new Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II; more recently, he was the only patriarch present at the enthronement of the new Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch, held in Damascus on 10 February; and shortly before arriving in Rome for the conclave, the Maronite patriarch had been in meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Though ecumenism is often an ideal professed and studied, Patriarch Bechara Peter seeks something more: “We are talking about concrete ecumenism, without much talking. It is ecumenism that many baptized are already living in their daily lives.”

Chaldean Church enthrones new patriarch (The Province) Iraq’s Chaldean Church enthroned a new patriarch during a ceremonial mass Wednesday that was held amid tight security in Baghdad. The mass at St. Joseph Chaldean Church in downtown Baghdad marked the final step as Patriarch Louis Raphael I, 64, replaced Emmanuel III Delly, who recently retired. The former archbishop of Kirkuk was elected patriarch last month, and Pope Benedict XVI approved the election shortly afterward. Ordained in 1974, Patriarch Louis Raphael earned two doctorates in Rome and Paris in the 1980s and then returned to Iraq. He has written books on church fathers. He speaks Arabic, Chaldean, English, French and Italian. During Wednesday’s ceremony, the new patriarch urged Christians not to emigrate from Iraq, and pledged to foster interfaith dialogue and understanding…

Orthodox Church in Syria provides aid to conflict victims (Ekklesia) The Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (DERD) of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, based in Damascus, has delivered around 75,000 humanitarian aid kits to an estimated 280,045 individuals in Syria amidst its ongoing conflict. According to recent reports issued by the United Nations, more than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria, while nearly a million have been displaced due to the armed conflict. The DERD has been distributing food and non-food essentials to the affected people around Damascus. It has been providing assistance in the areas of housing, health, nutrition, education and psychological support…

Ancient Palestinian village threatened by Israeli settlements (Al-Monitor) Less than ten miles outside the northern West Bank city of Nablus lies a sleepy town with an ancient and little-known history embedded in its ancient temple, tower and columns. Sebastia, according to Christian tradition, is where the body of John the Baptist was found, and during the Crusades, a cathedral was built over his tomb. Years later, Muslims returning to the area under the rule of Salah al Din transformed the cathedral into a mosque. The town also contains Roman, Herodian, medieval and Byzantine relics and ruins, which, peppered among the olive groves, makes it an ideal destination for Palestinian visitors and tourists alike. But according to residents, the town is becoming increasingly threatened by the nearby settlement of Shavei Shomron, whose residents are constantly uprooting olive trees and, more recently, pumping their sewage waste onto the Palestinian fields their settlement overlooks…



Tags: Vatican Israeli-Palestinian conflict Chaldean Church Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan

5 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter, patriarch of the Maronite Church, and Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, arrive for a general congregation meeting in the synod hall at the Vatican on 5 March. The world’s cardinals are meeting for several days in advance of the conclave to elect the new pope. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

General congregations: five more cardinal electors swear oath (Vatican Radio) On Monday evening, the College of Cardinals gathered in the New Synod Hall for the second general congregation in preparation for conclave. With the addition of five more cardinal electors swearing the oath before the college, only eight cardinals have yet to arrive in Rome. The five new arrivals came from far and wide: from Lebanon, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter; from Germany, Cardinal Woelki of Berlin and Cardinal Meissner of Cologne; from the Czech Republic, Cardinal Duka of Prague; and from Senegal, Cardinal Sarr of Dakar…

Conflict widens as Syrian soldiers massacred in Iraq (New York Times) More than 40 Syrian soldiers who had sought temporary safety in Iraq from rebel fighters along the border were killed on Monday in an attack by unidentified gunmen as the Iraqi military was transporting the soldiers back to Syria in a bus convoy, the Iraqi government said. At least seven Iraqis were also reported killed in the attack, which appeared to be the most serious spillover of violence into Iraq since the Syrian conflict began two years ago. The attack threatens to inflame the sectarian tensions that already divide Iraq, where a Sunni minority sympathizes with Syria’s overwhelmingly Sunni opposition…

Relief agencies struggle as Syrian refugee population nears 1 million (Washington Post) As a mass Syrian emigration spills into neighboring countries, relief organizations acknowledge that they can hardly keep up. The exodus is accelerating so quickly that the tally of need will almost certainly hit a grim milestone this week, when the number of Syrian refugees who have registered with the United Nations — or are on months-long waiting lists to do so — is expected to hit 1 million. Aid officials say Syrians fleeing violence are stepping into a growing humanitarian catastrophe, either in overcrowded camps with little to offer or, even more frequently, in urban areas that struggle to support them and where the welcome has worn thin. The crisis is compounded by a growing funding gap, which U.N. agencies say is forcing cutbacks on basic supplies and shelter…

Ethiopia: the first Christian nation? (International Business Times) For centuries, historians have widely accepted the argument that Armenia was the first Christian nation. This important claim has become a source of national pride for Armenians and has remained virtually undisputed for centuries — until now. A new book presents evidence that Ethiopia may have been the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion, drawing upon coinage and public records dating back most of two thousand years…



Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Syrian Civil War Vatican Ethiopian Christianity

1 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Benedict XVI leaves after appearing for the last time at the balcony of his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, on 28 February. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI: from humble servant to simple pilgrim (CNS) Pope Benedict XVI, who began his papacy describing himself as a “humble servant in the Lord’s vineyard,” described his retirement in similar terms. “I am a simple pilgrim who begins the last stage of his pilgrimage on this earth,” he told the crowd outside of Castel Gandolfo. “But with all my heart, with all my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, with all my interior strength, I still want to work for the common good and the good of the church and humanity,” he told them. Pope Benedict thanked the people for their support and asked them to continue to pray and work for the good of the church, too…

Coptic Catholic Cardinal Naguib will attend conclave (Fides) Though health complications had cast doubt on his attendance, Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Coptic Catholic patriarch emeritus, confirmed his participation in the conclave. Hemorrhagic cerebral ischemia had struck on 31 December 2011, forcing him to resign from his patriarchal office the following January. But now his condition has improved, making it possible for him to travel to Rome. “I am delighted to be able to take part in this important moment in the life of the church. It was something that I did not dream of anymore. In the beginning I said that it was not possible for me to go to the Eternal City for the conclave. But then I reflected on the fact that the first duty of a cardinal is to participate in the choice of the Successor of Peter. And I changed my initial decision”…

Damascus in the grip of a tense stalemate (L.A. Times) After nearly two years of fighting in Syria that has mostly spared the capital, an uneasy stalemate reigns in Damascus. In recent days, the city has experienced mortar attacks and car bombings, while the military has responded in its usual fashion: withering bombardment of outlying rebel strongholds. Rebel forces have dug in to the north, east and south of Syria’s capital, occupying stretches of suburban and rural terrain and threatening to break through to the heart of Damascus. Government troops have largely pulled back to a well-defended core, including the city center and loyal bastions to the west. Residents of Damascus are edgy, fearing that the fighting is closing in. “I don’t go anywhere unless I have specific business,” said a woman in her early 50s who requested anonymity for safety’s sake. “No one does”…

As war stretches on, Syrians turn to self-governance (New York Times) With Syria’s two-year-old civil war showing signs of stalemate, scores of new local councils in rebel-held towns like Tilalyan are not only fighting deprivation but trying to set up courts, police forces and social services. Their efforts amount to Syria’s first experiments in self-government after decades of tyranny under President Bashar al Assad and his father, Hafez al Assad. They are struggling to outlast Mr. Assad in what is increasingly a war of attrition. But civilian leaders say the councils are also trying to pry power from the armed rebel brigades that are already staking out control of resources and territories in the vacuum left by the government’s retreat. Tilalyan’s council illustrates the challenge: it has been forced to depend entirely on the patronage of either the Western-sponsored opposition-in-exile or competing armed factions, including hard-line Islamists. Three months after it was formed, though, the council can claim two achievements: four hours a day of electricity and a daily ration of two pieces of flatbread for each adult and child. That in turn has brought credibility and legitimacy, even in the eyes of skeptical town elders…



Tags: Syria Egypt Syrian Civil War Pope Benedict XVI Coptic Catholic Church





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