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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
12 February 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Matt Lauer and New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan appear on NBC’s Today Show in New York in this handout photo taken on 11 February. The cardinal talked about Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement earlier that morning that he will resign as pope at the end of the month. (photo: CNS/Peter Kramer, NBC via Reuters)

Cardinal Dolan: Papacy of Pope Benedict XVI both pastoral and scholarly (U.S.C.C.B.) Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued this statement moments after learning of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 11 February 2013: “The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter. Though 78 when he elected pope in 2005, he set out to meet his people — and they were of all faiths — all over the world. He visited the religiously threatened — Jews, Christians and Muslims in the war-torn Middle East, the desperately poor in Africa, and the world’s youth gathered to meet him in Australia, Germany, and Spain. ... Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism. Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity”…

E.U. to scrutinize products from Israeli settlements (Der Spiegel) Israeli settlers living in the Palestinian territories often deceptively give their products a “Made in Israel” label. The international community has never recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the West Bank or other contested areas, and the Geneva Convention outlaws the establishment of settlements within occupied territories. Nevertheless, successive Israeli governments have allowed colonies to be built up within them and, today, some 650,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This has prompted the European Union officials to move forward with planning that will put them on a confrontation course with Israel. At a meeting in December, the foreign ministers of the E.U.’s 27 member states reiterated their “commitment to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing European Union legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products.” In other words, they intend to prohibit the sale of goods produced in the occupied territories — or at least as long as they are falsely labeled…

Palestinian landowners and Catholic convent challenge West Bank wall (Al Jazeera) A court in Israel is due to hear final arguments on the construction of a separation wall in a pristine valley in the West Bank. Lawyers representing Palestinian landowners and a convent say if the wall is built they will lose their land and the convent will be surrounded; over 50 families will be cut off from their property. In the embedded video, Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston reports from the Cremisan Valley in the Occupied West Bank. This news follows the announcement that Israel has approved 90 new settler homes in the West Bank…

Maronite patriarch prays for peace in Syria (Reuters) The head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, Patriarch Bechara Peter, prayed in an old Damascus church on Saturday for an end to Syria’s civil war. The patriarch, whose church has 900,000 members in Lebanon — a quarter of the country’s population — is on the first visit to Syria by a Maronite patriarch since the independence of neighboring Lebanon in 1943. His visit comes at a time when Christians in the region feel under threat from the rise of political Islam. “[I pray] that the consciences of local, regional and international leaders are inspired to put an immediate end to the war in dear Syria ... and bring peace through dialogue,” he told dozens of worshippers inside the church. Lebanon’s Maronite leaders have had tense relations with Syria and led calls for an end to its military presence in Lebanon in 2005. But since the civil war flared, Christians have been uneasy about supporting rebels against Assad’s secular Baathists who ensured freedom of belief for minority faiths. Patriarch Bechara Peter himself has been careful not to be seen supporting either side in the Syrian conflict but has adopted a position close to Assad’s by saying reforms should not be imposed from outside…

Serbian patriarch prays that Serbs and Albanians will reconcile (b92) Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej stated in Prizren on Thursday that he hopes that Serbs and Albanians “will reconcile soon and live together as brothers.” The patriarch celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the St. George Church in Prizren together with bishops and clergy of the Rasla-Prizren Diocese. The liturgy was attended by a few dozens of believers. Addressing them after the service, the Patriarch said that he came together with the bishops to encourage people to stay but also to get encouragement from them, as they were “brave people who remain and persevere in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija.” A regular session of the Serbian Orthodox Church Holy Synod and the Kosovo and Metohija Committee will be held in Prizren on Thursday, the Raska-Prizren Diocese released in a statement. This meeting will discuss the problems that the Church is facing in the territory of Kosovo and the measures that the Church should take in order to ensure better protection of people, holy sites and heritage…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Pope Benedict XVI Israeli-Palestinian conflict Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan

8 February 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Many churches in Ras al Ayn, Syria, have been vandalized as a result of the ongoing civil war. (photo: OCP Media Network)

Christian symbols under fire in Ras al Ayn, Syria (OCP) Seventy-five year old Constantine Junan, a native of Ras al Ayn, Syria, insisted he stay in his home even after ten weeks of intense fighting in the city. This week, he was finally forced out by rebels. The rebels came to him after midnight and threatened his life and the life of his son, Junan, who had stayed with his father as others fled the city. Constantine was convinced that the men were intending to kill him and his son unless he obeyed their orders. He asked them to allow him to stay until sunrise, promising to leave then. In the morning, Constantine and Junan went into the church to pray and to receive the blessings of St. Thomas from the icon there. They were very sad to see that many of the metal, wood and stone crosses inside the church were broken. Constantine knew that the rebels forced him to leave his hometown so that he would not be an eyewitness to what was to happen there in the coming period. Constantine left Ras al Ayn on 27th Sunday morning. The photos of churches were taken after the Kurdish forces were able to free the Street of Churches in Ras al Ayn from rebel control. These 38 attached photos express the current situation in the little town, and show the extent of damage done to Christian symbols at the hands of one group of rebels, namely the Suqoor Al-Sunna (which means “The Eagles of al Sunna”)…

Syria’s Druze minority increasingly supports opposition (Washington Post) Members of Syria’s Druze community, a small but significant religious minority, are joining the opposition in bigger numbers, ramping up pressure on the beleaguered government of President Bashar al Assad, according to opposition activists and rebel military commanders. As the Syrian conflict has devolved into a bloody sectarian war, with many Sunni Muslims backing the opposition, some of the country’s minorities, including the Druze and Christians, have largely sat on the sidelines. The Druze community in Syria only numbers around 700,000, out of a total population of some 21 million, and has a history of rebelling under authoritarian leaders, rising up during the rule of the Ottomans as well as the French. Although communities are scattered across the country, the bulk of the Druze, whose secretive religion is an offshoot of Islam, live in the mountainous region of southeast Syria. In the past couple of months, according to opposition activists, there have been more than half a dozen anti-government protests in Sweida province, the ancestral homeland of the Druze in the southeast that had remained relatively quiet since the uprising began nearly two years ago. And in mid-December, rebel fighters announced the formation of the first revolutionary military council for Sweida province. The council coordinated the most significant battle in the Druze region since the conflict began…

Maronite patriarch to celebrate St. Maroun Day in Tripoli (Daily Star Lebanon) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter arrived Friday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli to hold an afternoon Mass in celebration of St. Maroun’s Day. Upon the patriarch’s arrival around 3:30 p.m., church bells in the city tolled, welcoming the prelate as hundreds gathered to greet the head of the Maronite Church. Patriarch Bechara Peter, who was recently appointed cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, held a private meeting with Tripoli’s bishops. The liturgy will be held at St. Maroun Church in the country’s second-largest city…

Cyprus gives Palestinians full diplomatic status (Daily Star Lebanon) Cyprus said on Friday it has upgraded its relations with the Palestinians to full diplomatic mission status, one of just eight European Union countries to do so. The decision was announced by Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis during an official visit by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al Malki. “I informed my Palestinian counterpart of the decision of the government to upgrade the status of the Palestinian diplomatic representation in Cyprus from that of a Diplomatic Mission to that of an Embassy of the State of Palestine,” Marcoullis told reporters. She said this “important decision” was in line with the recognition of the Palestinian State in 1988 by Cyprus, and follows seven other E.U. members that have recognized a Palestinian State — Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia…

Bombings across Iraq kill at least 26 (New York Times) A series of explosions across Iraq killed at least 26 people on Friday, continuing a spate of violence that has marked recent political turmoil and witnessed bombings now on seven consecutive Fridays. The bombings come amid worsening sectarian tensions, with Sunnis and others saying that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al Maliki and his political bloc are seeking to monopolize power before provincial elections in April. In a bird market in Khadumiya north of Baghdad the Shiite majority city, twin car bombs exploded, killing 16 people killed and wounding 45 others, according to security and medical sources. That blasts fit the pattern of deadly attacks on markets on Fridays, when they are typically crowded with people…



Tags: Syria Iraq Syrian Civil War Palestine Violence against Christians

7 February 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




His Beatitude Louis Raphael I of Kirkuk, newly elected patriarch of the Chaldean Church, is seen during a liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on 4 February.(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Chaldean patriarch interview: On forming a ‘bridge’ of interreligious dialogue (AsiaNews) The Chaldean Church must remain a “bridge” to promote and strengthen the dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Iraq, between citizens of different ethnic groups as well as between institutions and politics. This is Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to the new Chaldean patriarch, as told in a lengthy interview with AsiaNews. Mar Louis Raphael I was appointed on 31 January to succeed Cardinal Emmanuel Delly III, who resigned for reasons of age. Patriarch Louis Raphael I confirms that his goals will be “unity and cooperation” between the Chaldean bishops, the necessary condition to find a point of contact and dialogue with Iraqi leaders, both religious and political…

Relations strained between Orthodox and Greek Catholics in Ukraine (InterFax) The Russian Orthodox Church does not entirely share the optimism of the Vatican’s representative to Russia, Archbishop Ivan Yurkovich, about improving relations between Orthodox believers and Eastern Catholics in Ukraine. “In many ways, we managed to overcome difficulties in relations between Orthodox and Greek-Catholics in Ukraine that existed in early 1990-s, but we have to accept that today we face new challenges,” said Archpriest Dimitry Sizonenko, secretary for inter-Christian relations of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations. According to the apostolic nuncio, “those difficulties of the early 90’s today have been overcome in many ways and today there are many contacts, especially of personal and informal character, between the two Churches.” The Moscow Patriarchate representative says that the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church “is concerned with the attempts of the Greek Catholic Church to set up and develop its structures in regions where Orthodox believers make a majority”…

Egyptian opposition grows more radical with emergence of ‘Black Bloc’ (Der Spiegel) Protests against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are becoming increasingly violent. One factor behind this is the founding of the “Black Bloc,” a loosely organized group of activists that is not afraid to clash with the government. “The media represents us as thugs,” says one. “They say we’re killing policemen and setting the country on fire, but we are just defending ourselves. The real aggressor is sitting in the presidential palace.” Violence is increasing in the capital, but also in Alexandria, and everywhere else President Mohammed Morsi declared a state of emergency on Sunday of last week: Ismailia, Suez and Port Said. More than 60 people have been killed since 24 January, and hundreds have been injured. Supporters of the deposed regime of Hosni Mubarak have reportedly mixed in with the masked men, government officials claim. Others accuse the government itself of being behind the Black Bloc, using it as a tool to discredit the opposition. But many demonstrators say the organization is simply an answer to the violence exercised by the Muslim Brotherhood and its thugs…

Ecumenical leaders call for immigration reform (U.S.C.C.B.) Christian leaders representing the breadth of Christian churches and denominations in the United States issued a strong and urgent call on 1 February for fundamental immigration reform. The annual meeting of Christian Churches Together (C.C.T.) released this statement at the close of their four-day gathering in Austin, Texas. Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin hosted the meeting and presided over the opening worship service at Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The C.C.T. meeting, planned a year ago, focused on the challenge of immigration reform, hearing from a variety of immigrants and experts on immigration issues. Its statement comes as the nation’s political leadership has turned its attention to this challenge. “Each day in our congregations and communities, we bear witness to the effects of a system that continues the separation of families and the exploitation, abuse, and deaths of migrants. This suffering must end,” the statement said…

Report describes child sexual abuse in India ‘rampant’ (New York Times) Child sexual abuse continues to be “disturbingly common” in India, despite widespread awareness of the problem, because of “social stigma and negligence,” Human Rights Watch said in a report issued Thursday. In interviews with more than 100 people, including victims and their families, lawyers, counselors and police officials, the rights group found that the police, government officials and doctors were unprepared to deal with child sexual abuse cases, and in fact often made the situation worse. Most cases go unreported, and when children do report abuse, the government and police reaction is inadequate, the report said. “The process is so traumatic that in some cases the children are better off not reporting” abuse, Meenakshi Ganguly, the director of Human Rights Watch in South Asia, said in an interview. Only 3 percent of child abuse cases in India are reported to the police, a 2007 study found…

Egyptians protest against sexual violence (Al Jazeera) Thousands of men and women have marched in Egypt against the sexual harassment of female protesters. More than 20 women were sexually assaulted last month during the second anniversary of the so-called “Arab Spring” protests that led to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, former president. But sexual violence is nothing new in Egypt, one study estimates that more than 80 percent of women have experienced it at least once…



Tags: India Egypt Ukraine Children Ecumenism

6 February 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this November photo, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, patriarch of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, conducts an interview at the Wadi Natrun Monastery in Cairo. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

Interview: Egypt’s Coptic pope criticizes Islamists (AP) Egypt’s Coptic patriarch delivered a cautious but unusually sharp criticism of the nation’s Islamist leadership in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, dismissing the new constitution as discriminatory and rounds of national dialogues sponsored by the president as meaningless. Pope Tawadros II’s dive into politics came as he tried to energize the spiritual solidarity of a demoralized community with a visit to a historic monastery that no Coptic pontiff has been to in decades because of security tensions in southern Egypt. He joined the black-robed monks in a two-hour pre-dawn prayer at the ancient Virgin Mary chapel in the al Muharraq monastery, said to be on a site where the Virgin Mary took refuge with Jesus and her husband Joseph from Roman persecution. Tawadros has taken an unusually vocal political activist stance since being enthroned in November as the spiritual leader of the Copts, the main community of Egypt’s Christians…

Bulgaria stands by accusations that Hezbollah is behind bombing (Daily Star Lebanon) Bulgaria’s foreign minister defended himself Wednesday against accusations that Sofia lacked the proof to blame Hezbollah for a July bomb attack that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian. “If Bulgaria did not have enough arguments to announce yesterday that the traces in this attack lead to Hezbollah’s military wing, we would not have done it,” Nikolay Mladenov said on BNT television. Nearly seven months after the bombing of an Israeli tourist bus at the Black Sea airport of Burgas, Sofia on Tuesday had said two Canadian and Australia passport-holders with links to Hezbollah were to blame. This led to renewed calls from the United States, Israel and Canada on the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a “terrorist” organization…

Cairo activists fighting tear gas with tear gas (New York Times) As hundreds fled the advancing armored cars of riot police officers, Mohamed Mokbel ran forward. A veteran of two years of violent street protests, he pulled on his gas mask and charred protective gloves for another long night at his current vocation: throwing tear-gas canisters back at the riot police. “Whenever people lose hope, the clashes grow worse,” Mr. Mokbel, 30, said on a break from the fighting on Friday night outside the presidential palace. “But the people in power are still acting like there is no crisis, still firing more gas,” he said, “so I am going back in.” Two years after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, waves of increasingly violent street protests have decimated tourism, slashed foreign investment, increased poverty and dashed hopes of a return to stability. In the last two weeks, more than 50 people have died in the clashes…

Christians of Syria protest kidnappings (Fides) In the province of Jazira, in Syria, the exponential increase in kidnappings — side effect of the Syrian conflict — continues to flog the civilian population even in areas not affected by the fighting between rebels and government troops. Most recently, a Christian pharmacist was kidnapped last Sunday for a ransom of one million Syrian pounds (almost €11,000 euro, or $14,000 U.S. dollars). On Friday, dozens of Christians improvised a roadblock burning tires at an intersection in the city of Hassake to protest against the kidnapping of the rector of the Euphrates University, who was taken in broad daylight by gunmen and released after two hours. In his case, the kidnapping was not inspired by financial reasons, but issues related to the functioning of the university — indicating that now one resorts to criminal practice of kidnapping to resolve conflicts with the abuse of personal and social interest…

Syrian rebels fight close to heart of Damascus (Reuters) Syrian rebels battled Bashar al Assad’s forces on the edge of central Damascus on Wednesday, opposition activists said, seeking to break his grip over districts leading to the heart of the capital. Their offensive aims to break a stalemate in the city of two million people, where artillery and air strikes have prevented opposition fighters entrenched to the east from advancing despite their capture of army fortifications, the activists said. “We have moved the battle to Jobar,” said Captain Islam Alloush of the rebel Islam Brigade, referring to a district which links rebel strongholds in the eastern suburbs with the central Abbasid Square. “The heaviest fighting is taking place in Jobar because it is the key to the heart of Damascus.” Assad, battling to crush a 22-month-old uprising in which 60,000 people have died, has lost control of large parts of the country but his forces, backed by air power, have so far kept rebels on the fringes of the capital…



Tags: Syria Egypt Syrian Civil War Coptic Orthodox Church Bulgaria

5 February 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




His Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael, newly elected patriarch of the Chaldean Church, left, accepts a document from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, during a 4 February liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica confirming the patriarch's ecclesial communion with the pope. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Syrian bishop optimistic about new Chaldean patriarch (EWTN) A Syrian bishop is happy with the election of His Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael Sako I as patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, as he believes his experience at building dialogue in Iraq could save the lives of many Christians. “He is young and involved in conversations with Muslims so we hope we can achieve this in Syria, too,” said Bishop Antoine Audo, the head of the Diocese of Aleppo in northern Syria. “He knows the situation very well because he was the Archbishop of the Iraqi town Kirkuk for 10 years,” Bishop Audo explained. “But here we will be in communion not just with Muslims, but with all other Christian denominations and everyone around us.” Patriarch Sako told Vatican Radio that Kirkuk does not have any problems with Muslims, and in several mosques imams speak well of Christians for their role in bridging the divide…

Bulgarian Orthodox Church will reveal new patriarch late this month (Novinite) The Bulgarian Orthodox Church will announce its new patriarch on 24 February, local clerics confirmed on Monday. An election of delegates who will elect the church’s new patriarch was held in January. The delegates will convene on 24 February to elect Bulgaria’s new patriarch, out of the three candidacies proposed by the Holy Synod one week ahead. Bulgarian Orthodox Church long-serving Patriarch Maxim passed away of old age on 6 November 2012…

Exploitation, abuse and hard labor for 50,000 children in Jordan (Fides) In Jordan, because of poverty, many children are forced to work to survive. According to the latest census, Jordan has a workforce of 1.2 million, including 33,000 children. Other figures say that there are more than 50,000 young workers. The reports by activists for the protection of human rights and trade unions reported physical, psychological and sexual abuse, as well as inhuman working conditions, such as very tiring and long, underpaid days. The National Center of Forensic Medicine does not officially confirm cases of child victims of abuse in the workplace or make public any figures related to the phenomenon. However, a study conducted by an international expert confirms that 15% of all cases of sexual abuse of children under 18 are connected with the sexual exploitation of children at work or prostitution of girls. Jordanian law is in conformity with international conventions on child labor, which include fines and imprisonment. However, in practice, these laws are often inadequately enforced…

Ethiopian journalist arrested for coverage of Muslim protests (Committee to Protect Journalists) Ethiopian security forces have detained for two weeks without charge the editor of a news magazine and accused him of incitement to terrorism, according to local journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to release Solomon Kebede immediately and halt their harassment of journalists affiliated with the weekly Ye Muslimoch Guday (”Muslim Affairs”). Police in Addis Ababa arrested Kebede on 17 January and took him to the Maekelawi federal detention center. Solomon’s health is in poor condition and he has been held without access to a lawyer, the journalists said. A court date has been set for 13 February. Local journalists told CPJ they believed the arrest was linked to Solomon’s columns that had criticized perceived government intrusion in religious affairs…

Combat flares up in Aleppo (Daily Star Lebanon) Fierce battles erupted Tuesday in the city of Aleppo, a northern Syria battleground for the past six months, as rebels fought troops near an army barracks and tanks shelled the area, activists said. In the countryside surrounding Aleppo, once Syria’s thriving commercial capital but now ravaged by war, troops also shelled the rebel-held towns of al Bab and Sfeira, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. “Battles pitting rebels against troops broke out at dawn Tuesday … near the Mahlab army barracks [in Aleppo] … while army tanks shelled the area. Both sides have sustained casualties,” said the Observatory, which relies on a broad network of activists, doctors and lawyers for its information. It gave no further details of the casualties…



Tags: Ethiopia Children Syrian Civil War Jordan Chaldean Church

31 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Palestinian protesters throw rocks at an Israeli border police vehicle during clashes at a protest against the nearby Jewish settlement of Kdumim, in the West Bank village of Kfar Kadum, near Nablus, on 25 January. (photo: CNS/Abed Omar Qusini, Reuters)

U.N. inquiry says Israel must end settlements (Al Jazeera) Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank violate international law, and the country must “immediately” withdraw all settlers from such areas, United Nations human rights investigators have said. Israel has not co-operated with the inquiry, set up by the Human Rights Council (H.R.C.) last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including East Jerusalem. “Israel must … cease all settlement activities without preconditions [and] must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers” from the occupied territories, the fact-finding mission concluded in a report released on Thursday. The inquiry was led by French Judge Christine Chanet, and included Asma Jehangir of Pakistan and Unity Dow of Botswana as panel members. The settlements contravene the 1949 Geneva Conventions forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into the occupied territory, which could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.), it said…

Islamists ally with Egypt’s liberals in favor of national unity government (Christian Science Monitor) A hardline Islamist party normally allied to Egypt’s president joined the liberal opposition in calling for a national unity government as part of a plan aimed at ending the eruption of political violence that has shaken the country and left more than 60 dead. On Wednesday, the Salafi al Nour Party joined the Salvation Front in an initiative calling for a national unity government — effectively eroding the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on decision-making — and for the amending of contentious articles of the Islamist-backed constitution. For weeks, Morsi and the Brotherhood have ignored the Front’s repeated calls for a unity government. Salafis in general have strongly backed Morsi in the crisis and regularly denounced the liberal and secular opposition, accusing them of trying to reverse Islamists’ election victories and of trying to prevent Egypt from being ruled by Shari’a, or Islamic law. The party’s move may be aimed at distancing itself from Morsi’s Brotherhood ahead of the parliament elections…

Christians fleeing ‘unprecedented levels of horror’ in Syria (Christian Post) As the civil war in Syria has reached “unprecedented levels of horror,” according to the U.N., Christians are being forced to flee their homes as avoiding the violent conflict has become less of an option. “It’s a fight to the death [that] by definition involves killing. No one will win but those who fought from the start will create a desert and then call it victory,” Sky News said of the war raging between army forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad and rebels bent on taking down what they say is a tyrannical regime. The war has swept the entire nation, closing down infrastructure and businesses, and forcing many to choose a side or risk being caught in the crossfire. One of the worst attacks in the country occurred less than two weeks ago, when over 100 people were found slaughtered near the Christian-populated city of Homs. Witnesses blamed forces loyal to President Assad, who allegedly killed civilians they believed were harboring or aiding rebel soldiers…

Maronite patriarch denounces governments ‘inciting’ the civil war in Syria (Fides) Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Peter has charged that the governments who are arming both sides in Syria’s civil war bear a moral responsibility for the bloodshed. The Lebanese prelate denounced the “evil work of incitement” being done by states that are providing military support for either the Syrian government or the country’s rebels. Both, he said, are complicit in the “crimes of murder, destruction, aggression and deportation of innocent citizens”…

Jordanian priest says sects jeopardize relations between Christians and Muslims (Fides) Jehovah’s Witnesses and the sects of American origin, with their propagandistic methods, create problems for the Middle East Christian communities of ancient tradition and their relations with the Muslim majority. Jordanian priest Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media, based in Amman, says: “Recently, many families call me to point out the insistence with which Jehovah’s Witnesses ask to enter their houses to distribute propaganda materials. Those who … join them immediately began to publicly express their hostility towards the Christian community that they previously belonged to.” The priest recalled that in 2008, before the effects produced in Jordan by the activity of dozens of preachers, the leaders of the churches settled in the Hashemite Kingdom had expressed in a document their shared concern…

Malnutrition and childhood diseases high in Indian slums (Fides) Recent decades have seen a rapid and disorganized urbanization in India. The impact of childhood illnesses and malnutrition among people marginalized by this process remains difficult to quantify. A group of experts conducted a study on 176 children from four geographically adjacent slums, located on the western outskirts of Vellore, Tamil Nadu, to verify the safety of the water and the resulting intestinal infections. The results gave a total of 3932 episodes of illnesses, with an incidence of 12.5 per child per year. The common respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases detected can adversely affect children’s health and their development, as well as placing an additional burden for families who need to be treated and find resources…



Tags: India Egypt Children Syrian Civil War Jordan

30 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Palestinian students study on the campus of Bethlehem University in the West Bank on 13 September 2012. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Students discuss Bethlehem University (Vatican Radio) The only Catholic University in the West Bank is in Bethlehem. Veronica Scarisbrick recently visited the students there together with a delegation of bishops from Europe and North America, known as the 13th annual Holy Land Coordination. Founded following Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Holy Land in 1964, the university is supported by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and organizations like CNEWA, and run by the De La Salle Brothers. It is open to students of all faiths. And as Ms. Scarisbrick discovered, Christian students there are a minority. The embedded audio file contains her conversation with three students, one of whom is Muslim, as they highlight the bonds of friendship and understanding that develop amongst themselves, as well as their shared desire to live in the Holy Land despite their struggles…

Armenian Catholic archbishop: Syrians face ‘daily horror’ (Fides) “The effect of the condition in which we have been living for more than a year is that we are now addicted to horror everyday.” This is how the Armenian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati of Aleppo describes the devastating situation experienced by the inhabitants of the Syrian metropolis, where yesterday dozens of corpses of young victims were found. “There is always new news of massacres, there is the constant noise of bombing, one lives in a state of tension and fear day and night and there is a struggle to survive in a daily life in which there is not even water to drink and fuel to heat homes. As we are overwhelmed by all this,” the Archbishop explained, “there is almost no time to become aware of the terrible things in which we are immersed. The massacre at [Aleppo] University a few days ago, where we lost poor Sister Rima, already seems a distant thing”…

Syria’s Aleppo University tries to carry on after mystery blasts (L.A. Times) Before the first explosion, Laila and fellow architecture students at Aleppo University in Syria had gathered by chance in a stairwell, which shielded them from flying glass and shrapnel. In an instant, the less fortunate lay dead and injured amid the scattered debris. A second blast a few minutes later hit a dormitory across the street, causing more casualties. The twin explosions two weeks ago that killed more than 80 people and wounded 150 also left Laila determined to return to the university as exams and normal class schedules resumed Tuesday for the first time since the blasts. “If we don’t continue attending classes, we will become a backward country,” said Laila, 22, who used her Red Crescent training to aid victims at the chaotic scene. The blasts, apparently caused by a pair of missiles, were among the deadliest and most stunning of Syria’s almost two-year civil conflict, spurring global revulsion at a frontal assault against one of the nation’s leading educational institutions…

Egypt shudders, with leadership nowhere in sight (Christian Science Monitor) “The continuation of this struggle between the different political forces ... could lead to the collapse of the state.” Those were the words of Egyptian Army chief Abdel Fatah al Sissi to military academy students, in a speech posted online today. When the Egyptian military warns of state collapse, it’s time to start worrying. Though a coup is unlikely, that’s always a subtext when senior officers start talking about those incompetent civilian politicians failing to safeguard the very state itself. And it’s worrying enough that he might even believe it. But the fact is that Egypt is now at yet another dangerously chaotic, polarized point, with at least 50 people dead from four days of clashes in Cairo and the main cities of the economically vital Canal Zone under a state of emergency, with soldiers on the streets. The formation of a national consensus about the future from the elections of the past two years? It never happened. Instead, Egypt today has a Muslim Brotherhood president and a Constitution bitterly opposed by the opposition…

CNEWA aiding refugees in Jordan (Vatican Radio) CNEWA is calling on the international community to help Amman meet the growing needs of Syrian refugees flooding over the border into Jordan. CNEWA regional director Ra’ed Bahou told Vatican Radio that some 300,000 Syrian refugees are in Jordan now but, given the current economic crisis, the government is unable to cover the costs alone. “The situation of refugees coming from Syria is ... they are in a very desperate situation,” says Bahou. “We have 300,000 Syrian people in Jordan. 60,000 in a camp called Zaatari camp, the majority are Muslims in these camps. The conditions in these camps are very difficult.” Rigid temperatures and beating rain has made much of this winter miserable for the refugees, huddled around stoves in makeshift tents - causing serious health and safety concerns. A small Catholic aid agency, CNEWA provides what help it can to the refugees, including distributing food, clothing and sanitary supplies; offering education, counselling and catechesis. Embedded at the bottom is an extended interview with Mr. Bahou…



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Armenian Catholic Church Bethlehem University Multiculturalism

29 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Patriarch Emmanuel III of Baghdad attends Pope Benedict XVI’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this 14 March 2012 file photo. The 85-year-old prelate recently resigned for health reasons. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Chaldean leaders gather for election of new patriarch (Vatican Radio) The Synod of the Chaldean Catholic Church has convened in Rome to elect a new patriarch of Babylon. The 15 bishops of the Chaldean synod are meeting under the direction of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. After a spiritual retreat on Monday, 28 January, they will precede to discussing the future of the Chaldean Church, which is centered in Iraq, and the election of a successor for Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, who resigned in December at the age of 85. Tuesday will see the first round of debate and discussion on the current situation of the Chaldean Church in the patriarchal territory and wider Diaspora. Wednesday will see the first elections take place according to the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches…

March of solidarity for the hostages in Mesopotamia (Fides) Christians, Muslims, Kurds, nongovernmental organizations, public officials, churches leaders and leaders of mosques all assembled for a march of solidarity with victims of kidnappings. The 24 January initiative was held in Hassake, in eastern Syria, where the civilian population has faced considerable hardship and suffering. In the region a precarious balance between the opposing forces (including Islamist militias), the Kurdish forces, the Syrian army is lived, fighting each other. The population pays the price that took to the streets — more than three thousand were present — with banners and slogans to demand “a future of peace and hope for Mesopotamia.” The participants, who gave birth to the “Association of solidarity with the families of those kidnapped,” marched from the headquarters of the Syrian Orthodox Church to the city’s Palace of Justice, expressing their suffering and their demands. A memorandum was presented to the Public Prosecutor, asking him to carry out his tasks and asking the local government to provide protection to the innocent citizens…

Syria crisis: ‘Bodies of executed men’ found in Aleppo (BBC) The bodies of dozens of young men, all apparently summarily executed, have been found in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, rebels and activists say. At least 65 bodies were found on the banks of the Quwaiq River in the western district of Bustan al Qasr, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported. Most had their hands tied behind their backs and gunshot wounds to the head. A captain in the rebel Free Syrian Army said some of those who had been killed were just teenagers. Few had means of identification. People were gathering at the bank to see if they could find their missing relatives, A.F.P. reported. “My brother disappeared weeks ago when he was crossing [through] the regime-held zone, and we don’t know where he is or what has become of him,” said Mohammed Abdul Aziz…

Ukrainian Orthodox metropolitan enthroned (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A.) His Eminence Metropolitan Antony was enthroned on 26 January 2013 as the fourth metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America during a magnificent and traditional ceremony at St. Andrew the First Called Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Silver Spring, MD. The Enthronement services were attended by more than 500 faithful and about 70 clergymen of the Metropolia and many visitors from across the country from various Orthodox and Catholic jurisdictions…

Orthodox Church in America enthrones metropolitan of All America and Canada (O.C.A.) On Sunday, 27 January 2013, His Beatitude Tikhon, archbishop of Washington, metropolitan of All America and Canada, was enthroned at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, D.C. In attendance at the Enthronement were members of the Orthodox Church in America’s Holy Synod of Bishops and guests representing several Orthodox churches in North America and abroad. Metropolitan Tikhon was elected O.C.A. primate at the 17th All-American Council held in Parma, OH on Tuesday, 13 November 2012…

Israel gave birth control to Ethiopian Jews without their consent (The Independent) Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent. The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically. One of the Ethiopian women is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Israel Chaldean Church Orthodox Patriarchs

25 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Young men pass buildings destroyed by Syrian airstrikes in Damascus on 17 January. (photo: CNS/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

Syrian rebels destroy Shi’ite site, loot churches (Yahoo! News) Rebels in Syria have burned and looted the religious sites of minorities, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, as the longest and deadliest of the Arab Spring revolts becomes increasingly sectarian. The 22-month-old rebellion against President Bashar al Assad started as a peaceful protest movement but has turned into civil war, pitting mostly Sunni Muslim rebels against a state security and military establishment dominated by Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. In the northern Idlib province, where rebels have taken swaths of territory from government forces, the New York-based rights group said opposition fighters destroyed a Shi’ite “husseiniya” — a religious site devoted to Hussein, a martyr in Shi’ite tradition. In the western Latakia province, Human Rights Watch quoted residents as saying gunmen working “in the name of the opposition” had broken into and stolen from Christian churches in two villages…

Coptic Catholic bishop: Egypt must not become Islamist (Fides) On the second anniversary of the Revolution of 25 January 2011, while there are reports of new clashes in the streets between police and anti-government protesters, Coptic Catholic Bishop Youhanna Qulta outlines the contours of the delicate moment lived by the great north African country. According to Bishop Qulta, “if the government and the Muslim Brotherhood try to repress the demonstrations held these days, the nightmare of civil war will return in Egypt.” Bishop Qulta, as a representative of the Catholic Churches in Egypt, took part in the Constituent Assembly called upon to write a new Constitution. Today he confirms the reason he and other Christian representatives withdrew from that body: “Work had begun on the right note, but at some point it became clear that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis wanted to impose an Islamic Constitution. We discussed with their leaders, but they did not want to listen. We realized that our function was only decorative, and went away.” According to Bishop Qulta: “Egypt is not Mali. It is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. More than ten million Christians live there. Its economy is based on tourism and trade. This is why one cannot agree to allow it to become an Islamist Country.” The bishop added: “I love my Muslim brothers and my sisters. I also dedicated my studies and my Ph.D. to Islamic culture.” For Bishop Qulta, the real problem is the relationship between politics and religion: “Who wants to be religious, cannot claim to compel by law the people to pray, not to drink alcohol and follow all practices related to his religion. In Arab countries, only by separating religion and politics one can have democracy”…

Bishop warns of “toughest times” for Serbs since 2004 pogrom (B92) A Serbian Orthodox bishop based in Kosovo has said that the position of the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija has not been this difficult ever since March 2004. Ethnic Albanians at that time organized widespread attacks on Serbs, their property, and holy places. “Eight full years have passed since the horrible event, and we still see that part of the Albanian community is ready to commit the most serious crimes, including the barbaric desecration of graves,” Bishop Teodosije of Raska-Prizren was quoted as saying. Commenting on the latest spate of violence in which several dozen gravestones were either destroyed or damaged in Serbian Orthodox cemeteries in Kosovo and Metohija, the Bishop said that “the feelings at seeing images of broken tombs and crosses set on fire are terrible”…

Pope receives members of key ecumenical commission (VIS) Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox churches. The commission was instituted ten years ago as a initiative of the ecclesial authorities of the family of the Oriental Orthodox churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The commission has dedicated this week to exploring “more fully the communion and communication which existed between the churches in the first five centuries of Christian history,” Pope Benedict XVI said, expressing his hope that “relations between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox churches will continue to develop in a fraternal spirit of cooperation, particularly through the growth of a theological dialogue capable of helping all the Lord’s followers to grow in communion and to bear witness before the world to the saving truth of the Gospel.” The full text of his address can be found here



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Pope Benedict XVI Ecumenism

24 January 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Blessed John Paul II is pictured in a 1983 photo greeting Polish Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Warsaw, who died on 23 January in Warsaw. (photo: CNS/KNA)

Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Poland dies at 83 (New York Times) Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the spiritual leader of Poland’s Roman Catholics for 25 years, who helped steer his nation through a historic and relatively peaceful transition from Communism to democracy in 1989, died on Wednesday in Warsaw. He was 83. The Polish news agency PAP said Cardinal Glemp had lung cancer. For a thousand years, the church has been a repository of nationhood in overwhelmingly Catholic Poland, and for decades Cardinal Glemp, as the archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno and the primate of Poland, was both mediator and power broker in the struggle between the Communist government and the resistance led by the Solidarity labor union…

Bombs in Baghdad kill 17 (Al Jazeera) Three blasts, including a suicide attack, have killed at least 17 people in and around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, officials say. The most deadly of Tuesday’s explosions took place in Taji, about 12 miles north of Baghdad, where a suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives detonated his bomb near an army base, killing at least 7 and wounding 24. Two more car bombs, in the northwest neighborhood of Shula and the town of Mahmudiya to the south of the city, killed another 10 and wounded nearly 30, police and hospital sources said. Violence in Iraq has eased since the widespread sectarian carnage of 2006-2007, but Sunni armed groups still launch frequent attacks to reignite confrontation among the Shia majority, Sunni Muslims and ethnic Kurds. The latest attacks come amid rising ethnic and sectarian tension following the arrest last month of bodyguards assigned to the Sunni finance minister Rafia al Issawi…

Archbishop Manoogian elected Armenian patriarch of Jerusalem (France24) Archbishop Nurhan Manoogian has been elected the 97th Armenian Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, one of the five custodians of Christian religious sites in the Holy Land. The 65-year-old patriarch elect replaces His Beatitude Torkom II, who died at 93 in October 2012, after falling into a coma following a stroke. The new patriarch will lead the small Armenian Orthodox communities in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan, and take responsibility for parts of holy sites including the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Nurhan Manougian was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1948 and ordained in Jerusalem in 1971. His election must be approved by Israel and the Jordanian king…

Muslim Brotherhood boycotts Jordanian elections (Christian Science Monitor) Jordanians voted in their first parliamentary elections since the Arab Spring revolts on Wednesday, but a boycott by the main Islamist party guaranteed there would be no repeat of an Egypt-style revolution via the ballot box. The popular Muslim Brotherhood shunned the poll saying the electoral system had been rigged against large, populated urban areas where it is strongest in favor of rural tribal areas where conservative, pro-government forces are entrenched. The Brotherhood’s boycott has reduced the election to a contest between tribal leaders, establishment figures and businessmen, with just a few of the 1,500 candidates running for recognized parties. “God willing, these elections will produce a good parliament that will consider the needs of the citizens. We hope this parliament will be better than the previous one,” said Iskandar Nuqul, a voter in Amman’s first electoral district…

Palestinian president seeks peace talks with new Israeli parliament (Daily Star Lebanon) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will invite Israeli politicians to the West Bank to try to make sure peacemaking is on the new government’s agenda, a senior official said Thursday, even as a top Israeli hard-liner proposed sidelining the polarizing issue. President Abbas hopes to sit down with representatives of Israel’s parliamentary factions to discuss the possibility of settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peacefully, senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo told The Associated Press. He did not say when the invitations would go out, but emphasized that the president wants the meeting to take place before Israel forms its next government — a process that is expected to take several weeks…

Egyptian human rights group decries police abuses (L.A. Times) An Egyptian human rights groups reported this week that torture and police brutality, which helped spark a national uprising two years ago, have continued under the new Islamist-led government. Over the course of 2011 and 2012, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) documented more than 20 extrajudicial killings as a result of torture or “unnecessary” use of firearms by police forces, the group said in a report released ahead of the second anniversary of the 25 January revolt that eventually toppled former President Hosni Mubarak. “It is clear from the data gathered that police continue to deploy excessive violence and torture systematically as it was during the Mubarak regime,” the rights group said. As Egypt continues to find its way after the revolution, the government has gone through different interior ministers who promised drastic police reform and new ways for security forces to reach out to the public. EIPR says little has changed…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Jordan Middle East Peace Process Armenian Apostolic Church





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