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Current Issue
Spring, 2015
Volume 41, Number 1
  
29 May 2015
Greg Kandra




A large statue of St. Vladimir overlooks Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. The Russian Orthodox Church plans to build a more imposing statue of the saint in Moscow. (photo: Wikipedia)

Proposed huge statue of Russian saint divides Moscow (The New York Times) What the city lacks is a spectacular monument to a religious figure, but the Russian Orthodox Church and the culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, are determined to change that. They have championed a project that will alter the cityscape by erecting an 82-foot-tall statue of St. Vladimir, Russia’s patron saint, atop one of the few hills in Moscow. Muscovites have not embraced the idea. Tens of thousands have signed a petition against the statue, which is to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of St. Vladimir’s death. It is lost on no one that Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, already has a 162-year-old, 54-foot-tall monument to St. Vladimir and that Russia’s conflict with Ukraine helped inspire Moscow’s my-statue-is-bigger-than-yours version...

Nearly 500 bodies exhumed from graves in Iraq (CNN) An Iraqi forensic team has exhumed 499 bodies from a series of graves in the presidential complex in the city of Tikrit, a top official in the Baghdad morgue who is familiar with the operation told CNN on Thursday. The bodies are believed to be those of Iraqi military cadets, whom ISIS claimed to have killed in June 2014 in a massacre at Camp Speicher, a fortified Iraqi base near Tikrit...

Kurdish troops retake some Syrian cities from ISIS (AP) In contrast to the Iraqi army’s failures, Kurdish fighters in Syria are on the march against ISIS, capturing towns and villages in an oil-rich swath of the country’s northeast under the cover of U.S.-led airstrikes. As the Kurds close in on Tel Abyad, a major commercial centre on the Turkish border, their advance highlights the decisive importance of combining air power with the presence of a cohesive and motivated ally on the ground — so clearly absent in Iraq...

“Creating a Culture of Peace” conference held in Rome (L’Osservatore Romano) “Creating a Culture of Peace: What can Religions Do?” was the theme of the conference held recently in Rome at the Lay Centre of Foyer Unitas. Twenty-eight students from the the UK’s Cambridge Muslim College and the Centre for Islamic Theology at Germany’s Tubingen University participated in the conference at which Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, presented...

Visiting "Divine Ethiopia" (The Telegraph) There are moments when Ethiopia seems to belong to an atlas of the imagination — part legend, part fairy-tale, part Old Testament book, part pulling your leg. In this land of wonders there are medieval castles of a black Camelot, monasteries among Middle Earth peaks accessible only by rope and chains, the ruined palace of the Queen of Sheba and the original Ten Commandments in a sealed box guarded by mute monks with killer instincts...



Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Russian Orthodox

28 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from January, Iraqi refugees who fled their homes because of ISIS try to hold on to life in a refugee camp in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. (photo: Andalou Agency/Getty Images)

Sunnis fleeing ISIS find few doors open elsewhere (The New York Times) With new waves of civilians fleeing violence in Anbar there are now more internally displaced Iraqis, nearly three million, than there were at the height of the bloody sectarian fighting that followed the American invasion, when millions of Iraqis were able to flee to Syria. That door is closed because of that country’s own civil war. And now doors in Iraq are closing, too, worsening sectarian tensions as the Shiite authorities restrict where fleeing Sunnis can seek safety...

ISIS spares some ruins in Palmyra — for now (Science Magazine) Archaeologists around the world feared for the spectacular ruins in Palmyra, Syria, after ISIS militants took over the city and brutalized its population last week. The group had already looted and bulldozed another World Heritage Site, the city of Hatra in Northern Iraq. However, after a preliminary examination of the latest satellite images from Palmyra, Michael Danti, the academic director of the Syrian Heritage Initiative at the American Schools of Oriental Research in Boston, reported that he saw no new damage to the stunning crossroads of Roman, Greek and Persian cultures, whose ruins include the Roman emperor Diocletian’s camp. ISIS has released a video showing that these ruins are still intact. And in an interview released yesterday Wednesday, the head of ISIS’s military forces in Palmyra, Abu Laith al-Saoudi, stated that they would preserve the ruins — perhaps because some buildings lack religious connotations or worship — but destroy the site’s statues, which the group believes are religious idols...

Israel calls on world to help rehabilitate Gaza (Business Standard) Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called upon the international community to establish a body to oversee rehabilitation in the Gaza Strip. “I call on all the nations of the world to come and see how we can formulate an international initiative which will improve the lives and conditions of the residents of Gaza,” the president said on Wednesday, according to a statement from his office, Xinhua reported...

Russia massing firepower on border with Ukraine (Ukraine Today) Russia’s army is massing troops and hundreds of pieces of weaponry including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery at a makeshift base near the border with Ukraine, a Reuters reporter saw this week. Many of the vehicles have number plates and identifying marks removed while many of the servicemen had taken insignia off their fatigues. As such, they match the appearance of some of the forces spotted in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev and its Western allies allege are covert Russian detachments...

Patriarch calls for prayers, fasting for kidnapped priest, deacon (Catholic World News/Fides) Syrian Catholic Patriarch Igance Youssif III has called upon the faithful to fast and pray for the safe release of two clerics who were kidnapped last week by rebel forces. In a message read at all the Syrian Catholic parishes around the world, the Patriarch asked prayers for the safety of Father Jacques Murad and Deacon Boutros Hanna. There has been no news about their status since they were abducted...

Indian Christians say government concerned about attacks on minorities (Vatican Radio) In the backdrop of large scale celebrations and political rallies on completing one year in power at the Centre by the right-wing Hindu nationalist party, BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) led government, prominent Christian leaders say they see an attitude change among political leadership which now appears to show genuine concern over attacks on the minority community in the past several months. “The indifference and total silence” regarding the attacks on churches and the Christian community “has now given way to a genuine concern,” said Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad...



27 May 2015
Greg Kandra




While ISIS continues to lay siege to parts of Syria, in the video above, a priest from Aleppo describes a side of the Syrian conflict often overlooked: Christians and Muslims living
together in peace. (video: Rome Reports)


ISIS releases two women hostages (Fides) Two elderly women in the group of more than 230 Assyrian Christians taken hostage in February by the State Islamic jihadists in the Syrian north-western region of Jazira, have been released and were admitted to a hospital in Hassaké to be treated for their health problems...

Video claims to show damaged buildings of Palmyra (The Daily Mail) Footage has emerged purportedly showing destroyed ancient buildings inside the Islamic State-held Syrian city of Palmyra following a series of air strikes by the country’s air force. The amateur video shows the area around the central Syrian city largely abandoned, with its millennia-old streets littered with rubble from collapsed and badly damaged buildings. The video emerged just hours after Syrian regime warplanes carried out intense strikes on ISIS targets within Palmyra in an attempt to force the terrorists out of the strategically important desert city in eastern Homs province following their capture of it in a lightning advance last week...

Nepal, India move to protect children from human traffickers (Vatican Radio) Nepal has banned children from travelling without parents or approved guardians to deter human traffickers who authorities fear are targeting vulnerable families after recent devastating earthquakes. Meanwhile, in India, child victims of the Nepal earthquake as young as eight are being rescued from people traffickers amid fears they will be sold into the sex trade...

The village of Pisky, where war still rages in Ukraine (BBC) The conflict in Ukraine is entering its second year and a ceasefire, nominally in place since February, has failed to stop the violence in areas around Donetsk airport. Among the hardest hit is the village of Pisky. It had a population of 3,000 before the war started, but now only a handful of civilians remain...

The plight of Ethiopian Jews in Israel (BBC) The story of the immigration and absorption of Ethiopian Jews in Israel epitomises the best and the worst of Israeli society. True to its Zionist dream of being a haven for Jews, the Jewish state embarked on risky and expensive rescue operations in the 1980’s and 1990s. These brought tens of thousands of Jews from remote parts of Ethiopia, who had suffered from religious persecution, famine and civil wars. Yet, when they arrived in Israel, these distinctive people faced appalling discrimination, racism and a lack of empathy for their hardships in Ethiopia and during their journey to Israel...



Tags: Syria India Ukraine Ethiopia Israel

26 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Iraqi army tanks get into position on the outskirts of Tikrit in an effort to retake an oil refinery from ISIS on 24 May. (photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty Images)

Iraqi forces launch major offensive against ISIS (CNN) Iraq forces have launched a major military operation to liberate Iraq’s Anbar and Salaheddin provinces from ISIS, Iraqi state media and a key Shia militia group said Tuesday, a little more than a week after the militant group overran Anbar’s provincial capital, Ramadi. The fighting in Salaheddin province is aimed at cutting a supply route south into Anbar and liberate Baiji city and oil refinery, according to the media office for the militia group, al-Hashd al-Shaabi...

Homs could be next temptation for ISIS in Syria (Haaretz) The Islamic State’s capture of the town of Palmyra is another irreparable blow to one of the world’s most important cultural sites. According to reports from Syria, Islamic State fighters are already damaging antiquities, spreading concerns that ISIS will demolish a heritage that has survived for 2,000 years. Over the past two days, more than 400 people have been killed in the town, and thousands more have been arrested by ISIS forces after Syrian army soldiers fled, even though they were better armed...

Pope Francis sends message for Day of Christian Unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a videomessage on the occasion of the Day for Christian Unity which took place in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States on 23 May...

Cardinal Turkson speaks on Africa Freedom Day (Vatican Radio) Speaking on the occasion of Africa Liberation Day or Africa Freedom Day being celebrated by many African countries on 25 May 2015, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson has spoken passionately about the need for African governments to work towards nation building. Cardinal Turkson, who originates from Ghana, was speaking in Rome during an interview with Fr. Paul Samasumo of Radio Vatican’s English Service for Africa...

Kremlin and Russian Orthodox Church join in celebrating saints (AP) Thousands of Russians have filled Red Square to join the patriarch of Russia’s Orthodox Church in celebrating Slavic literature and the two ninth-century monks considered to be the creators of the Cyrillic alphabet. The religious and patriotic holiday celebrations were in keeping with Kremlin efforts to promote national pride and consolidate society as Russia is under pressure from the West and its economy is heading toward recession...



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Russian Orthodox

22 May 2015
Greg Kandra




The video above contains footage shot by a drone last fall as it flew over parts of Gaza, revealing dramatically the devastation to the region. A report out today says Gaza’s economy is on the “verge of collapse,” with the highest rate of unemployment in the world. (video: BBC)

ISIS seizes key Syria-Iraq border crossing (BBC) Islamic State militants have seized the last Syrian government-controlled border crossing between Syria and Iraq, a Syria monitoring group says. Government forces withdrew from al-Tanf — known as al-Waleed in Iraq — crossing as IS advanced, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. The loss of al-Tanf to IS follows the group’s takeover of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra on Thursday. The US says that fighting the militants will be a “difficult challenge...”

Some Christian towns being recaptured from ISIS militants (CNS) Church bells are ringing once again in the Assyrian Christian villages dotting the Khabur River in northeastern Syria after ISIS militants were routed by a combination of forces. It’s a stark contrast to the mounting concerns for one of the most renowned archeological sites in the Middle East following the Islamic State militant sweep into the ancient Syrian city Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site. Despite the ISIS militant victories in Iraq and Palmyra, the extremists have suffered a setback in Syria’s northeastern province of Hassakeh. There, Kurdish and Assyrian Christian fighters have again wrested control over the Abdul-Aziz Mountain near the village of Tal Tamar, according to activists and Christian officials in Hassakeh...

Gaza economy “on verge of collapse” (The Guardian) The economy of Gaza — assailed by war, poor governance and a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade — has reached the “verge of collapse” with the coastal strip suffering the highest rate of unemployment in the world. The bleak picture is presented in a devastating report by the World Bank, released on Friday, which said that Gaza’s economy had been strangled by years of blockades, war and poor governance and faces a dangerous crisis over its ability to meet wages and other spending requirements. Calling for the “lifting of the blockade on the movement of goods and people to allow Gaza’s tradable sectors to recover” the report warned that about 43% of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents are unemployed, with youth unemployment reaching about 60% by the end of last year...

Amnesty International: all sides in Ukraine conflict are committing war crimes (AP) Both warring sides in eastern Ukraine are perpetrating war crimes almost daily, including torturing prisoners and summarily killing them, the Amnesty International rights group said in a report Friday. Amnesty said in a statement that it has heard from former captives of both Ukrainian government and separatist forces who say they faced savage beatings, torture with electric shocks, kicking and stabbings...

Coptic vicar: church will respect death sentence for Morsi (CNS) Egypt’s Catholic Church has pledged respect for the country’s justice authorities after a deposed Islamist president was sentenced to death for alleged complicity in a planned jail break. “After long deliberations, the Catholic Church has declared itself against the death penalty in general,” said Fr. Hani Bakhoum Kiroulos, patriarchal vicar of the Coptic Catholic Church. “But Egypt is an Islamic country which, like the United States, uses this sentence. Far from intervening in particular judgments, the Catholic Church must respect the country’s laws and judicial system.” The priest spoke as protests continued against the May 16 decision by a Cairo court that sentenced former President Mohammed Morsi and dozens of others...

Cardinal hopes for “trialogue” between Christians, Muslims, Jews (Vatican Radio) The three day conference ‘Nostra Aetate — Celebrating 50 years of the Catholic Church’s Dialogue with Jews and Muslims’ concluded yesterday at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. The President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity — and also responsible for the Church’s dialogue with the Jewish people — Cardinal Kurt Koch, was there. He says the Nostra Aetate declaration was a landmark in relations between the Catholic Church and other faiths. But, he notes that while the Church has ongoing bilateral talks with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, it may be too early to engage in a “trialogue” among the three monotheistic faiths. “We don’t have trialogue and for us it is too early to make this because sometimes we speak about an Abrahamitic ecumenism — this is very clear — it is a good issue. But on the other hand, we have a very, very different interpretation of Abraham and we cannot deny this issue. And in the interreligious discussion, it is very important to treat also this difference that we have in the interpretation of Abraham...”



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Muslim

21 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Syrians stand and look out on the street of the ancient city of Palmyra on 18 May, a day after ISIS took control of the city, which is home to a 2,000-year-old World Heritage Site.
(photo: AFP/Getty Images)


ISIS takes full control of Palmyra (Reuters) Islamic State fighters tightened their grip on the historic city of Palmyra in Syria, days after capturing a provincial capital in neighboring Iraq, suggesting the growing momentum of the group which a monitor says now holds half of Syrian territory. The twin successes pile pressure not just on Damascus and Baghdad, but also throw doubt on U.S. strategy to rely almost exclusively on air strikes to defeat Islamic State. Extending its reach in the region, fighters loyal to the Sunni Muslim group have also consolidated their grip on the Libyan city of Sirte, hometown of former leader Muammar Gaddafi...

Cardinal: Christians, Muslims ‘still don’t know each other enough’ (CNS) “Despite 50 years of ‘Nostra Aetate,’” the Second Vatican Council’s document on interreligious relations, “we still don’t know each other well enough,” said French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Speaking 19 May about Catholic-Muslim relations, Cardinal Tauran added, “Most of the problems we face are problems of ignorance...”

Ukraine tears up military cooperation agreement with Russia (AP) Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday voted to suspend military cooperation with Russia in a long-anticipated move signaling a further break in relations between the once-close partners. Kiev also produced what it claimed was fresh confirmation of involvement by Russian intelligence in sowing unrest in breakaway eastern regions, saying it is evidence of continued Russian plans to destabilize Ukraine...

Pope urges prayers for China, persecuted Christians over Pentecost (CNS) Pope Francis asked Catholics worldwide to show solidarity through their prayers for Catholics in China and for persecuted Christians over the Pentecost weekend. The World Day of Prayer for the Church in China is observed each year on the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, 24 May, which this year falls on Pentecost. The pope also underlined a prayer initiative of the Italian bishops’ conference inviting all Italian dioceses to pray for persecuted Christians on the vigil of Pentecost. The vigil is intended to “remember the many brothers and sisters exiled or killed for the sole reason that they are Christian,” said the pope. “They are martyrs...”

Pope: Christians are called to be one (Vatican Radio) His wounds are the “price” that Jesus paid for the Church to be united forever to Him and to God. Christians today are called to ask for the grace of unity and to fight against all “spirit of division, of war, of jealousy.” That was Pope Francis’s reflection during his Homily at Mass Thursday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta guesthouse. For Pope Francis, “the great prayer of Jesus” is that the Church is united — that Christians “be one" as Jesus is with his Father. Drawing his reflections from the day’s readings, Pope Francis immerses us in the atmosphere of the Last Supper — not long before Christ gives Himself over to the Passion. Recalling Christ’s weighty words entrusted to the Apostles, the Pope warns us against “the great temptation” and entreats us not to yield to the other “father:” the one of “lies” and “division...”



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Muslim

20 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, papal envoy to Iraq, says words and good intentions are not enough to protect people in the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope calls for an end to “unacceptable crime” of persecution (Vatican Radio) The many Christians who are being persecuted in our times “are martyrs” Pope Francis said on Wednesday, at the end of his General Audience. The Holy Father praised an initiative of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) to make a special remembrance, on the Vigil of Pentecost, of the many “brothers and sisters” who have been exiled or killed for no other reason than being Christian. He expressed his hope that the moment of prayer for the new Christian martyrs would increase the recognition that “religious liberty is an inalienable human right...”

ISIS reportedly seizes part of Palmyra in Syria (BBC) Islamic State fighters have seized the northern part of the ancient World Heritage-listed city of Palmyra in Syria, a monitoring group has said. Militants seized part of the town of Tadmur located on a strategic east-west route next to Palmyra on Saturday but had been pushed back from the ruins. Palmyra contains architecture of one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world, according to Unesco...

Iraq calls for volunteers to battle ISIS (BBC) Iraq’s government has called for volunteers to fight against Islamic State and help retake the city of Ramadi. A cabinet statement said a voluntary recruitment drive was necessary to fill shortages in squads in the west of Anbar province. Thousands have fled Ramadi since its capture by IS on Sunday. Meanwhile, the US National Security Council said it was considering “how best to support local ground forces”...

Report: Israel holding talks with Hamas about floating port for Gaza (Haaretz) Israel is conducting talks with Hamas about the possible construction of a floating port between Turkish Cyprus and the Gaza coast that would allow goods to be transferred the Palestinian coastal territory, the Jordanian daily Ad-Dustour reported Tuesday, quoting Western diplomatic sources. According to the report, the talks, described as direct, have been ongoing in various European capitals with guarantees provided by Turkey, which has also been trying to advance dialogue between the two sides...

Dozens of priests reported leaving Ukraine (Interfax) Dozens of priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) are leaving Ukraine in fear of persecutions, the head of the sector for interreligious liaisons at the Russian Orthodox Church’s Synodal Department for External Church Relations Priest Dimitry Safonov said on Monday. “There are dozens of priests who had to leave Ukraine. The exact statistic is currently impossible. They are pressured into leaving Ukraine. Their families are getting death threats, they themselves are facing the threat of physical violence,” he told an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference on combating the intolerance and discrimination towards Christians...

Copts kidnapped on way to Marian shrine (Fides) Four young Coptic Christians in the province of Minya, Upper Egypt, were kidnapped along while walking along a country road to reach the ancient church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the village of Jabal al-Tair, in the city of Salamut. This was reported by Egyptian sources consulted by Agenzia Fides...



Tags: Syria Iraq Ukraine Middle East Gaza Strip/West Bank

19 May 2015
Greg Kandra




In this image from last month, thousands of Iraqis fled the city of Ramadi as fighting intensified.
(photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


ISIS prepares to defend Ramadi, as humanitarian crisis looms (BBC) ISIS militants are preparing to defend the Iraqi city of Ramadi, witnesses say, as Iranian-backed militiamen gather east of the city. Residents said ISIS fighters had set up defensive positions and laid landmines after capturing the city on Sunday. Militants were also going door-to-door looking for government sympathisers and throwing bodies in the Euphrates river, residents were quoted as saying. Thousands have fled the city and the UN has warned of a humanitarian crisis. It says some 25,000 people have left the city, only 105km (65 miles) west of Baghdad, in recent days, adding to a flood of people already displaced from the area. Many were sleeping in the open...

Jordan denies Syria charge it is “training terrorists” (The Daily Star) Jordan Tuesday rejected Syrian accusations that “terrorists” were being given military training on its soil, insisting Amman favored a political solution to its neighbor’s conflict. The Syrian foreign ministry, in a protest letter sent to the United Nations Monday, alleged Jordan “provides logistical support to armed terrorist groups, including [Al-Qaeda affiliate] Al-Nusra Front.” It accused Jordan of having “set up terrorist training camps on its soil as well as operation centers to help these groups and facilitate the infiltration of thousands of terrorists a day.” Jordan’s government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani, quoted by state news agency Petra, said the charges had “no basis in reality...”

Syrian refugees struggle to survive in neighboring countries (U.S. News & World Report) With the Syria conflict in its fifth year, the struggle for survival is getting tougher for many of the close to 4 million Syrians who fled to neighboring countries, particularly those in Jordan and Lebanon, where the highest number of refugees have settled. There appears to be no quick and practical way to halt the downward slide...

Thousands of patients from Gaza receive treatment in Israel (The Times of Israel) Along with Egypt, Israel has maintained a blockade over the seaside territory to prevent Hamas importing weapons — and has fought three wars with the Strip’s Islamist gunmen — since the terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007. At the same time, the Jewish state also allows thousands of Gazans to travel each year to hospitals in Israel. This awkward arrangement, which sometimes includes security interrogations, highlights how after years of hostility, the fates of Israel and Gaza are deeply intertwined...



18 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas greets Pope Francis at the conclusion of the canonization Mass for four new saints in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 17 May. Also pictured is Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household. The pope canonized four 19th-century nuns. The new saints are: Marie-Alphonsine and Mary of Jesus Crucified, both from historic Palestine; Jeanne Emilie De Villeneuve from France; and Maria Cristina Brando from Italy.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


Pope canonizes nuns, including two from Palestine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis canonized four women religious on Sunday, all 19th century nuns who worked in education. St, Marie-Alphonsine and St. Mary of Jesus Crucified were from the territory that made up historical Palestine; St. Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve was a French nun and foundress; and St. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception came from Italy. “To abide in God and in His love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all — this is what the four women Saints canonized today did,” Pope Francis said in his homily. “Their luminous example challenges us in our lives as Christians”...

Pope, Palestinian President express hopes for peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meeting in the Vatican Saturday, expressed their hopes for a resumption of peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel and for “courageous decisions” for peace, with international support. A Vatican statement described the talks as “cordial,” and said the two sides “expressed great satisfaction with the agreement reached on the text of a comprehensive agreement between the Parties concerning essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine, which will be signed in the near future...”

Shia militias plan counter-offensive after Iraqi city of Ramadi falls (BBC) Shia militias are assembling east of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to prepare for a counter-attack against Islamic State militants who captured it on Sunday. Iraqi state TV described tanks and other military vehicles entering al-Habbaniyah military camp. IS fighters are reportedly moving towards the base. The Iraqi government called for help from the Iran-backed militias after the military was routed and fled. About 500 people died in the city — only 70 miles (112km) west of Baghdad...

U.S. captures “treasure trove” in Syrian raid (The Wall Street Journal) The U.S. special-operations force that carried out a first-of-its-kind mission in Syria to capture the Islamic State finance chief and his wife over the weekend came away with a treasure trove of materials that could help in the attempt to pressure the extremist group...

Egyptian court sentences Mohammed Morsi to death (Vatican Radio) An Egyptian court sentenced ex-President Mohammed Morsi to death on Saturday for his part in a mass prison break that took place during the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign. More than 100 others also received the death penalty in connection with the uprising...

Pax Christi leaders see inequities in West Bank water distribution (CNS) It took only a slight turn of an eye to see the glaring difference in levels of water availability and consumption between the Israeli agricultural settlement of Petza’el and the three neighboring dusty Palestinian villages just outside Jericho. Up on the hill next to the settlement stood a gleaming white water tower for the use of the Israeli settlement, while in the village cluster, an old well built by Jordan prior to the 1967 war sat, neglected and locked, and an old agricultural aqueduct was dry. Some participants in Pax Christi International’s “Pilgrims on the Path to Peace” 70th anniversary conference, taking place in Bethlehem, gathered in the village on 13 May on one of the conference’s six simultaneous pilgrimages to see different realities of Palestinian life. Some 150 delegates from 30 countries participated in the five-day conference...

Ethiopia detains 200 suspected human smugglers (AP) Two hundred suspected human smugglers have been detained as part of the Ethiopian government’s efforts to stem the number of citizens trying to illegally migrate to Europe, a senior official said. The government is looking for 80 other alleged smugglers who are conducting overseas operations, Ethiopian Federal Affairs Minister Shiferaw Teklemariam told the Ethiopian News Agency late Sunday...



15 May 2015
Greg Kandra




Sister Diana Momeka, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Mosul, Iraq, testifies at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington titled “Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities.” (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)

Help us ‘go back home,’ displaced Iraqi sister urges U.S. Congress (CNS) Speaking quietly and deliberately, Dominican Sister Diana Momeka from Iraq urged a congressional committee hearing May 13 to help the displaced Christian refugees in Iraq to “go back home.” “We want nothing more than to go back to our lives; we want nothing more than to go home,” Sister Diana, a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena of Mosul, Iraq, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. During the hearing: “Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities,” Sister Diana was one of four women who spoke of the urgent need to not only help and protect religious minorities but also to preserve and save religious sites...

Bishop says Syrians are exhausted (CNS) Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, and his people are exhausted. The bishop, who is president of the church’s charitable agency, Caritas Syria, left the country for a few days to attend the general assembly of Caritas Internationals in Rome from 12-17 May. Daily life “is becoming more and more difficult and tiring,” he told Catholic News Service. When the fighting first began in 2011, he said, the people of Aleppo held up well because the danger zones were far away. “Now our situation is very bad, very difficult,” he said. “We are without electricity, without (running) water.” “Something like 80 percent of people in Aleppo are without jobs. So they don't have any money to survive,” the bishop said...

Vatican-Palestine accord supports two-state solution (CNS) Vatican and Palestinian representatives have finalized the text of a formal agreement recognizing freedom of religion in the “State of Palestine” and outlining the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church, its agencies and its personnel in the territory. Without fanfare, the Vatican has been referring to the “State of Palestine” at least since January 2013. The “Annuario Pontificio,” the Vatican’s official yearbook, lists a diplomatic relationship with the “State of Palestine.” The Vatican, which praised the United Nations’ recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in 2012, said on 13 May that the bilateral commission working on the agreement had finalized the text...

Chaldean Patriarch visits Tehran (Fides) The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran “does not hesitate to support the people and the Iraqi government, because the two Countries share the same history and civilization.” This is what the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Louis Raphael I said during his visit that began on 12 May in Iran, where the Primate of the Chaldean Church will be staying until 22 May...

ISIS reported on the offensive in Ramadi (CNN) ISIS has launched a wide-scale attack on Iraqi security forces in Ramadi in an apparent attempt to take the rest of the key central Iraqi city, a provincial governor said Friday. The ISIS offensive, which started Thursday night and continued into Friday, included suicide attacks with explosive-rigged cars near security posts in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, Anbar Gov. Suhaib Al-Rawi said...

Cardinal Tagle elected head of Caritas (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines has been elected as the new president of Caritas Internationalis. He was nominated at the confederation’s 20th General Assembly in Rome. Following his election, the Cardinal, speaking by phone to the delegates from over 130 member organisations from all over the world said “Buona sera a tutti!” “Thank you for your trust. I’m limited in my capacities but with all of you, with the love that Jesus has poured into our hearts and in the name of all of the poor people in the world, I accept this election...”

Pope urges African bishops to promote inter-religious dialogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged Catholic bishops of the Central African Republic (CAR) to promote inter-religious dialogue and peaceful co-existence and encourage their flock to respond to hatred and violence with forgiveness and love...

Christian center, churches attacked in India (Vatican Radio) Tuesday night, suspected Hindu radicals attacked three churches in Indore, Madhya Pradesh’s largest city, and a temporary home of Augustinian nuns (OAS) in Pipaldhar, which houses a centre for disabled children run by nuns, as reported by AsiaNews. While, unknown attackers threw heavy bricks on the roof of the building, which is home to rehabilitation centre for children with mental disabilities, in Pipaldhar, the extremists threw stones, destroyed crosses, vandalised various items and attempted to set fire to one of the places of worship in Indore. However, police intervened before they could carry out their plans...

Two new Palestinian saints (VIS) This morning in the Holy See Press Office Fr. Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media in Amman, Jordan, presented the figure of the Palestinian blesseds Sister Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, founder of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and the Carmelite Maryam Baouardy (Mary of Jesus Crucified). Along with another two women religious, the French Jeanne-Emilie de Villeneuve and the Italian Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception Brando, they will be canonized by Pope Francis this coming Sunday in St. Peter’s Square...



Tags: Syria India Iraq Palestine Iran





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