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Current Issue
March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
24 May 2018
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Iraqis describe challenges in observing Ramadan in the post-ISIS era. (video: Al Jazeera English/Youtube)

Syrian state media says U.S. hit army posts, U.S. denies (Reuters) Syrian state media reported that the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State struck Syrian army positions in eastern Syria early on Thursday, but the U.S. military denied knowledge of it…

Ramadan in post-ISIS Iraq (Al Jazeera) More than a billion Muslims around the world are observing the month of Ramadan, a time for reflection, worshipping and self-restraint. And it has a special meaning for more than two million Iraqis displaced by the conflict ISIS…

Violence in Gaza prompts calls for prayer, dialogue, investigation (The Catholic Register) With at least 60 killed and over 2,700 injured, Canadian Catholics can’t just shrug and say the violence on the Israel-Gaza border is not their problem…

Controversy surrounds Indian archbishop’s call for prayer ahead of elections (UCANews.com) Archbishop Anil Couto of New Delhi has sparked a political controversy after Hindu groups accused him of undermining Indian interests and working with the Vatican to tarnish the government’s image. The prelate launched a year-long prayer campaign 13 May, saying India faces a “turbulent political future” that threatens the country’s democracy. He asked Catholics in the capital to have special prayers and fast on all Fridays until national elections due in April next year. Hindu groups reacted angrily and said the archbishop’s statement was politically motivated…

Turkey hands out money and flags in east Jerusalem (Israel Hayom) he Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency has handed out about $420,000 in $500 checks to eastern Jerusalem merchants and residents as a gift for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, Israel Hayom discovered. The move exacerbates already tense relations between Israel and Turkey, which called for Israel to be tried at the International Criminal Court for its use of force to deter violent weekly demonstrations along the Gaza border…



Tags: Syria Iraq India Gaza Strip/West Bank Ramadan

23 May 2018
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Bernadito Auza meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The archbishop, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N., on Tuesday denounced atrocities against civilians during war. (photo: Vatican Media)

Patriarch calls for peace in Malankara Church (The Hindu) Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church Ignatius Aphrem II has called for peace between the two factions of the Malankara Church based on dignity and respect for each other. On his second apostolic visit to India, the Patriarch told a press conference here on Tuesday: “I will do all I can to achieve peace based on respect, dignity and mutual acceptance…”

Iraq works to form new government (NPR) Former U.S. foe Muqtada al Sadr appears to be the new face of reform in Iraq. The Shia cleric’s bloc won the most votes in this month’s parliamentary election…

Holy See calls for protection of civilians during war (Vatican News) The Holy See on Tuesday denounced atrocities against civilians in armed conflicts and attacks against hospitals, schools and medical and humanitarian personnel that provide them essential services, saying, “the culture of impunity for such crimes must end.” Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N. in New York made the remark at a Security Council debate on the protections of civilians in armed conflict…

Egypt opens a door, and Gaza residents run for the exit (The Wall Street Journal) A taxi driver who hopes to move to Turkey. An aspiring law student. A father seeking opportunities for his children. They are among the hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who have rushed for the exit since Egypt opened its border last week. It is a rare opportunity to leave a territory that has been largely sealed off from the outside world since Israel and Egypt tightened border controls after the Islamist group Hamas was elected in 2007…

Russian Orthodox Church wants to ’form Christians worthy of the name’ (Herald Malaysia) On 14 May, the Synod of Russian Orthodox bishops approved an important document, titled “Principles of the activity of the diocesan missionary office.” It is a vast project of evangelization, aimed mainly at the formation of lay faithful and their insertion into the life of the church. In this way, the patriarchate wants to free itself from the identification of religion with the “national sentiment” that has characterized these decades of post-Soviet religious renaissance, and find ways to form Christians worthy of the name…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Russian Orthodox Church Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II

22 May 2018
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, speaks during a special prayer service for peace in the Holy Land on 19 May at the Church of St. Stephen in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Syrian military retakes control of Damascus (NPR) Syria’s military announced Monday that it cleared Damascus and its suburbs of the last elements of the Islamic state militant group, ISIS. According to government reports, the Syrian army had driven ISIS out of the rebel group’s last remaining strongholds in southern Damascus; this marks the first time that President Bashar al Assad’s government has total control of the capital since the rebellion began in 2011…

Archbishop to Mideast Christians: turn to prayer in times of despair (CNS) Even in times of violence and despair, the power of joint prayer for peace can be felt, said Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Local Palestinians, religious and foreign worshippers gathered at the Dominican Church of St. Stephen May 19, answering the archbishop’s call for a joint peace prayer in the face of 16 May violence along the Gaza-Israeli border, in which 62 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,000 were injured…

New Chaldean cardinal praised as a ‘courageous voice’ (CNS) Pope Francis’ naming of Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako as cardinal is a gift to the Chaldean Catholic church, which has been struggling in the face of terrorism, said an Iraqi archbishop. Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah called Cardinal-designate Sako a “courageous voice…”

India’s Christian leaders pledge to support parties that promise to protect them from discrimination (UCANews.com) Six months ahead of elections in three northern Indian states, Christian leaders have pledged to vote for political parties assuring protection of their communities from discrimination and abuse. Ecumenical Christian group Sarva Isai Mahasangh (All Christian Forum) has resolved not to support parties in upcoming federal and state elections that work against religious minorities…

Coptic Christian family feeding hundreds during Ramadan (The New Arab) A Christian Egyptian family is organising daily feasts for hundreds of people marking the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The Agaybi family, from the southern city of Luxor, have set up two large communal tables in the street for the observant to break their fast, local news website al-Masry al-Youm reported on Saturday…

Muslims in parts of Ethiopia fast, pray for rain (Andalou Agency) People in northeastern Ethiopia’s Afar region are currently facing the hottest season in years due to severe drought-like conditions, but still Muslims like Mohammed Utban are continuing to fast in the holy month of Ramadan. Utban, who lives in a small tent-like house with his family in a drought-affected area, says his prayers these days are mostly for rains in the area, which would help his family and the people of his community from the drought. ”I beg Allah for his paradise in Ramadan. I pray to almighty to send us rain,” he said…

Teaching refugees how to map their world could have huge benefits (Smithsonian) Like many other refugee camps, Zaatari developed quickly in response to a humanitarian emergency. In rapid onset emergencies, mapping often isn’t as high of a priority as basic necessities like food, water and shelter. However, my research shows that maps can be an invaluable tool in a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis. Modern digital mapping tools have been essential for locating resources and making decisions in a number of crises, from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the refugee influx in Rwanda…



Tags: Syria India Egypt Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

21 May 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael of Baghdad during a meeting with Chaldean Catholics at the Church of St. Simon the Tanner in Tbilisi, Georgia, in this 2016 file photo. Patriarch Louis Raphael was one of 14 new cardinals named by the pope 20 May. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope to create 14 new cardinals; list includes the Chaldean patriarch in Iraq (CNS) Pope Francis announced he would make 14 new cardinals 29 June, giving the red cardinal’s hat to the papal almoner, the Iraq-based patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan, among others. Announcing his choices 20 May, the pope said that coming from 11 nations, the new cardinals “express the universality of the church, which continues to proclaim the merciful love of God to all people of the earth…”

Report: explosions near Iranian facility south of Damascus (Haaretz) Heavy explosions were heard Sunday overnight south of Damascus in Syria in an area which holds a security facility used by Iranian forces, Sky News in Arabic reported. There is no confirmation from other sources. The alleged blasts came days after explosions were heard near Hama airport in Syria last week. The U.K-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said the series of explosions were near Hama’s military airport and had been heard in Hama city, killing at least 11 government soldiers and allied fighters…

Patriarch invites Catholicos for talks in India (The Hindu) In what appears to be a dramatic turn of events in the more-than-a-century-old fratricidal war in the Malankara Church, Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II has invited Catholicos of the East Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, for peace talks during his five-day visit to India which begins next week…

Palestinian sets himself on fire to protest dire living conditions in Gaza (The Independent) A 20-year-old Palestinian is in a critical condition after setting himself on fire in what is believed to have been a protest over the horrific living conditions in the blockaded Gaza Strip. Fathi Herb reportedly shouted “damn Hamas” before dousing himself in petrol and setting it alight in Sheikh Radwan on Saturday night…

Gunmen attack church in Chechnya (The New York Times) Four gunmen stormed a church in Russia’s predominantly Muslim region of Chechnya on Saturday, killing at least one churchgoer and two police officers, according to authorities. All the attackers were killed in an exchange of gunfire with the police at the Archangel Michael Church in the center of Grozny, the capital, according to the Investigative Committee of Russia, an internal security agency…

Caritas provides help for survivors of 2001 earthquake (UCANews.com) Bena Ben survived one of the most devastating earthquakes in India by grabbing her kids and fleeing her traditional mud house seconds before it collapsed. Lives were saved but the disaster left her family homeless. That was 17 years ago. She now lives in a concrete home like many others in Nadapa village in Gujarat state’s Bhuj region, helped by a Catholic Church agency that continues to do charitable work in the area…

How a Coptic Christian is battling prejudice in sports (AFP) Mina Bendary dreamed of becoming a professional footballer in Egypt, but found his Coptic Christian name was an insurmountable barrier in the Muslim-majority country. Such discrimination prompted him to hang up his boots and instead establish an academy to protect the rights of Christian footballers…

Pope to canonize Paul VI, Oscar Romero on 14 October (CNS) Pope Francis will declare Blesseds Oscar Romero, Paul VI and four others saints Oct. 14 at the Vatican during the meeting of the world Synod of Bishops, an institution Blessed Paul revived. The date was announced 19 May during an “ordinary public consistory,” a meeting of the pope, cardinals and promoters of sainthood causes that formally ends the sainthood process...



Tags: Syria India Egypt Pope Francis Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

18 May 2018
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the U.N. in Geneva, has called for dialogue and encounter to bring peace to the Middle East. (photo: Vatican Media)

Holy See urges dialogue, encounter to bring peace in Holy Land (Vatican News) Amidst worsening violence in the Holy Land and the Middle East, the Holy See on Friday urged the use of dialogue and encounter to bring peace, and called for the recognition of Jerusalem as the city sacred to Christians and Muslims. Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva made the call on Friday at a special session of the Human Rights Council on the deteriorating rights situation in the region…

Putin tells Assad all ‘foreign forces’ to leave Syria (CNN) Russian President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar al Assad Thursday that “foreign armed forces” would leave Syria, according to Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA. He and his counterpart hailed the beginning of the “political process” in Syria amid an ongoing “fight against terrorism”…

More countries plan to move embassies to Jerusalem (CNBC) On Wednesday, Guatemala joined the U.S. in moving its embassy to Jerusalem. More countries are preparing to make the leap. Paraguay’s Foreign Ministry announced that its embassy will also relocate to Jerusalem, while the Czech Republic, Romania and Honduras reportedly considering the move…

Vatican message for Ramadan: ’Move from competition to collaboration’ (Vatican News) The Vatican is urging Christians and Muslims to “move from competition to collaboration,” saying rivalry between them has had negative consequences. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue made the exhortation in a message released on Friday on the occasion of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and its conclusion, Eid ul Fitr…

Wealthy Indian Christian donates mosque to his workers for Ramadan (Daily Sabah) A wealthy Christian Indian businessman gave his workers in the United Arab Emirates a generous gift for Ramadan: a mosque. When Saji Cheriyan, an Indian expat, said he decided to build a mosque for the Muslim workers to whom he rents accommodation after noticing that they had to take a taxi to a nearby mosque to worship…



Tags: Syria India Holy Land Holy See

17 May 2018
Greg Kandra




Palestinians run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas at the Israel-Gaza border during a protest against the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem on 14 May. (photo: CNS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa,  Reuters)

Europe’s bishops lend their support to calls for peace in Middle East (Vatican News) Europe’s Catholic bishops on Wednesday lent their support to the appeal of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land for peace in region, stressing the urgency of protecting life at all costs …

U.N. report says chronic hunger on the rise around the world (Vatican News) The report by the United Nations World Food Program (W.F.P.) examines these “spreading and intensifying” food crises around the world. Entitled “World Food Assistance, Preventing Food Crises,” the new report by the W.F.P. warns that chronic hunger is increasing around the world and food crises are spreading and intensifying. It asks what causes these crises to break out, what determines their scale and how they might be prevented…

Hindus oppose Muslims praying in India’s public places (UCANews.com) Hindu groups’ opposition to Muslims using public places for congregational prayers is creating tension in India, with some suspecting there is a hidden agenda afoot linked to the national elections expected early next year. An amalgam of 22 leading pro-Hindu groups have intensified their calls for a total ban on the country’s 172 million Muslims conducting congregational prayers on public grounds and some roads…

Byzantine prayer app now available (ByzCath.org) A new and unique daily prayer app is now available from Eastern Christian Publications for iOS and Android devices. The app is titled “ECPubs” and is available for free download from either the Apple Store or Google Play. This is the only Byzantine Catholic app available in English with all the changeable prayer texts included for the Daily Office…



Tags: India Middle East Hunger Hindu

16 May 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis passes a crucifix as he walks down steps during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican 16 May. During his audience, the pope called for efforts to stop the “spiral of violence” in the Middle East. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope issues plea for peace in Middle East (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Wednesday once more expressed his deep concern at the worsening violence in the Middle East. ”I am very concerned at the escalation of tension in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and the spiral of violence that is moving away further from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiation,” he said at the end of his general audience in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square…

Syrian rebels leave last besieged area (Reuters) The remaining fighters started to withdraw from the last rebel-held enclave in central Syria on Wednesday, state television reported, sealing the government’s control over the area and opening a major stretch of the country’s most important highway…

Lebanon’s president: country will not wait for a political solution on refugees (Middle East Monitor) Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that his country refuses to wait for a political solution before returning the Syrian refugees to their homeland. “We are surprised by the position of some parties which obstruct this return or do not encourage it,” Aoun said during a meeting with foreign delegations in the presidential palace. “Lebanon faces many challenges with 1.8 million displaced people on its territory since 2015,” he said…

Shi’ite cleric’s win puts Iran to the test in Iraq (Reuters) Already pressured by the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran faces a major test in managing Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, a formidable opponent who beat Tehran’s longtime allies to achieve a shock victory in Iraq’s parliamentary election…

Pope meets with Buddhists, Hindus, others at Vatican (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Wednesday briefly met a delegation of Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs who participated in a one-day conference in the Vatican, and another group of Buddhist monks from Thailand...



Tags: Iraq Lebanon Pope Francis Middle East

15 May 2018
Greg Kandra




In the video above, ambulances in Cairo carry caskets with the remains of martyred Egyptian Copts. They were executed by ISIS on a beach in Libya in 2015. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)

Remains of Egyptian Copts executed by ISIS arrive in Egypt (Libya Herald) The remains of 20 Egyptian Copts ceremoniously murdered while being recorded on video by the terrorist organization ISIL during its control of Sirte, were returned to Egypt yesterday. Their remains were flown from Misrata airport after completion of the relevant procedures by Libyan authorities, Libyan state news agency LANA reports…

Uneasy calm falls over Gaza after Monday violence (The New York Times) Gaza awoke on Tuesday to a grim agenda: Funerals for protesters killed along the fence bordering Israel, including one for an 8-month-old baby girl overcome by tear gas; and still-frenzied work treating the thousands of people wounded, in hospitals so overrun with patients that tents were set up in their courtyards. There was also uncertainty about whether the demonstrations would grow, fade, or give way to an outright armed conflict. The death toll in the protests reached 60 overnight…

Delhi archbishop launches election prayer campaign (UCANews.com) Delhi Archdiocese has started a year-long prayer campaign ahead of federal elections, saying India faces a turbulent political future that threatens the country’s democracy. In a pastoral letter read out on 13 May in all the national capital’s parishes, Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi called on Catholics in his archdiocese to start a campaign of prayer and Friday fasting ahead of elections in due in April 2019…

Modi’s party claims victory in crucial Indian state election (UCANews.com) Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party emerged wining more seats in a crucial election in the southern Indian state of Karnataka in a major setback to their rival Congress party, setting the tone for national elections early next year…

Syria’s lost generation: school kids who can’t go to school (Haaretz) Syria’s Education Ministry recently published detailed directives on finding and punishing students who have forged diplomas — another action by which the regime seeks to show that the areas under its control are being properly run. Actually, these directives are meaningless. The real details on the number of forgers are unavailable, and the need to forge documents stems not only from a desire to cheat, but from the loss of documents during the war, documents students need to get jobs or complete their studies…



Tags: India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank ISIS

14 May 2018
Greg Kandra




Palestinians carry a demonstrator injured during clashes with Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on 14 May 2018. Dozens were killed in the latest protests ahead of the controversial opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. (photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

Gaza: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014 (BBC) At least 52 Palestinians have been killed and 2,400 wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war. Palestinians have been protesting for weeks but deaths soared on the day the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem.Palestinians see this as clear US backing for Israeli rule over the whole city, whose eastern part they claim…

Vatican and Jordanian institute underscore dignity of human life (Vatican News) The Vatican and a Jordanian institute dedicated to inter-faith studies have issued a statement urging for the protection of and respect for human life, especially that of migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking. The call came from the delegates of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, who held their fifth colloquium in the Jordanian capital Amman, 9-10 May, on the theme, “Religions and the Dignity of Life: Christian and Muslim Viewpoints”…

India’s government accused of blocking Christian judge (UCANews.com) The collegium of India’s Supreme Court has met to reconsider its recommendation to elevate a Christian judge to the top court amid allegations that the pro-Hindu federal government had rejected him for ideological reasons. The collegium of judges met on 11 May to consider its January recommendation to elevate Chief Justice K.M. Joseph of Uttarakhand High Court to the Supreme Court, local reports said…

Mideast faith leaders say life influences how people deal with the environment (CNS) It’s hard to discuss detrimental environmental effects of using the diesel fuel needed to run generators in Gaza when people only have three hours of government-provided electricity a day, said Tahani Abu Daqqa, former Palestinian Minister of Culture. Daqqa participated in an interfaith conference aimed at bringing religion into play for the environment — not an easy task in a region where religion has often been a force for separation rather than cooperation and where many people live under poverty and hardship…



Tags: India Palestine Vatican

11 May 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Metropolitan Rastislav, primate of the Orthodox Church in the Czech and Slovak Republics, during a meeting in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican 11 May. In an address at the meeting, the pope said seeking Christian unity is more urgent than ever because of the ongoing persecution of Christians. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Iran condemns wave of Israeli air strikes in Syria (BBC) Iran has backed Syria’s “right to defend itself” after Israel launched strikes on what it said was Iranian military infrastructure inside Syria. In the first comments by Iran since Thursday’s wave of strikes, the foreign ministry condemned the “blatant violation of Syria’s sovereignty”. The strikes were the heaviest carried out by Israel on Syria in decades…

Pope meets primate of Orthodox Church in Czech, Slovak republics (Vatican News) Pope Francis met on Friday with Metropolitan Rastislav, head of the Orthodox Church in the Czech and Slovak Republics. It was the first encounter between the pontiff and the primate, who was elected in January 2014. In his words to the Holy Father, Metropolitan Rastislav compared the two church leaders to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who only recognized Jesus when he broke bread with them…

India’s bishops condemn letter defaming Church (Vatican News) India’s Catholic bishops have condemned a malicious fake letter making the rounds on the social media, that is designed to defame the Catholic Church and arouse communal tension for political gain in the run-up to the crucial assembly election on Saturday in the southern state of Karnataka. The fake letter claims that Indian Church officials in collusion with representatives of the Holy See in New Delhi, support demands made by Karnataka’s Lingayat community to be recognized as a separate minority religion in order to convert them…

Catholic Church accused of ‘playing politics’ in Goa, India (UCANews.com) Villagers in India’s Goa state have started a hunger strike against environmental policies amid accusations that the Catholic Church supports such protests. They started the hunger strike on 9 May as part of their opposition to the Planning and Development Authority, which they claim is implementing a regional plan to take over farmland and water bodies in several villages to develop tourism projects threatening the environment…

Egypt celebrates 50th anniversary of Coptic-approved Marian apparition (Egypt Today) On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the great apparition of Virgin Mary in in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria said that the historical event was a message of love from God to Egyptians…



Tags: Syria India Israel Iran Czech Republic





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