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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
13 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Israeli security forces get orders in Bethlehem, West Bank, as Palestinians protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Muslim nations today urged recognition of East Jerusalem as the “occupied capital of a Palestinian state.” (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Muslim nations urge recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital (BBC) The leaders of 57 Muslim nations have called on the world to recognize East Jerusalem as “the occupied capital of a Palestinian state.” The Organization of Islamic Co-operation declared US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise the city as Israel’s capital unlawful. It also said the move had signaled Washington’s withdrawal from its role in the Middle East peace process...

Northern Lebanon struggles with backlash against Syrians (Al-Monitor) We are in northern Lebanon on a Monday night. Like every night, a team of 18 inspectors is dispatched around town to check that Syrians are not out in the streets after the curfew, to see who lives in which building, to photograph any new resident and record his name and city of origin in Syria, and to warn anyone whose residency permit has expired that they need to fix it as soon as possible...

International agencies announce 2018 response plan for Syrian crisis (The Jordan Times) United Nations agencies and NGO partners on Tuesday released the 2018 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), a $4.4 billion plan designed to support over five million refugees from Syria and the vulnerable host communities in neighboring countries...

Priest who was kidnapped receives Mother Teresa Award (Vatican Radio) The Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil SDB who was released after 18 months of captivity in Yemen received the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice by Harmony Foundation Mumbai on Sunday. Father Tom despite having had the opportunity to leave the country chose to serve the elders of the Missionaries of Charity in Yemen. Harmony Foundation recognized his compassionate humanity and dedication and commitment to his work in a location of great danger. On this occasion he thanked God for the opportunity he was given to serve the mission in Yemen and for all those who prayed for his release...

Kerala government pledges to expedite help to victims of storm (The Hindu) The process for providing financial assistance to the kin of those killed due to Cyclone Ockhi would be expedited, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said...

Dioceses pledge to help Holy Land Christians (Vatican Radio) Eight dioceses in England have pledged to support vulnerable Christians in the Holy Land through Christmas crib donations. Churches in the dioceses of Arundel and Brighton, Birmingham, and Hexham and Newcastle will give their crib offerings this year to the Friends of the Holy Land (FHL), a charity that provides relief to Christians living in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan...



12 December 2017
Greg Kandra




In India, newly professed religious sisters pose for a photograph after taking vows in eastern Jharkhand state on 8 December. Church leaders say vocations from ethnic minority groups are increasing. (photo: UCANews.com)

Syrian opposition urges Russia to rescue UN peace talks (The Guardian) Russia has been urged by the Syrian opposition to salvage the UN’s peace talks in Geneva this week by persuading the Syrian government delegation finally to begin direct face-to-face discussions. Basma Kodami, a leading member of the Syrian opposition negotiating team, urged the Russians to show they wanted to capitalize on the end of military operations in Syria by building a lasting peace...

Iraq holds national reconciliation meeting (Arab News) Iraq held a two-day meeting of the country’s elites in preparation for a national reconciliation conference. Co-organized by the Foreign Ministry, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Iraqi Reconciliation Committee, the meeting — which ended Tuesday — constitutes a first concrete step toward entrenching national reconciliation...

Lebanon crisis overshadows aid for refugees (EUObserver) Perched on the side of a mountain some 50km from the Syrian border, St John’s monastery in Lebanon is home to around a dozen hermits and priests. A printing press that published books in Arabic, the world’s first, can still be found within its halls. Today, the monastery has become an educational refuge for Syrian children hoping for a future that was removed from them when the regime under Bashar al-Assad indiscriminately dropped barrel bombs on his own people...

Vocations increase among ethnic minority groups in India (UCANews.com) Forty-one young women from ethnic minority groups took vows to become Catholic nuns in a rare event of this scale in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. Church leaders welcomed what they described as a trend for more tribal people to choose a religious path in life. More than 1,000 Catholics, including families and parishioners of the women, gathered 8 December for the ceremony at the Nirmala Catholic Church in the state capital, Ranchi...

Cairo cathedral marks one-year anniversary of blast (Egypt Today) Cairo Cathedral at Abbassiya district held a special liturgy Monday to mark the first anniversary of the martyrdom of 29 Copts at the explosion of St. Peter and St. Paul church, which are attached to St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral. Families and friends of victims as well as survivors are gathered for the first anniversary of the church bombing...

Nuns return to St. Barbara Monastery (OCA.org) Mother Victoria and the nuns of Saint Barbara Monastery some 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, who had been evacuated as the Thomas Fire broke out late Monday, 4 December 2017, have returned to their monastery...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Egypt Lebanon

11 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Women and children sit in a relief camp on 2 December after they were evacuated following cyclone Ockhi in the coastal village of Chellanam in the southern state of Kerala, India. The storm claimed the lives of at least 32 poor Catholic fishermen who were at sea and 200 more were missing. The local church is now appealing for help for victims. (CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)

India diocese appeals for help for people hit by cyclone (Vatican Radio) India’s Catholic dioceses in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala states are grappling with the “massive disaster” in the wake of the cyclone Okhi, that swept by Trivandrum and Kanyakumari districts on 29 November. Several hundred fishermen are feared missing, the Rev. Deepak Anto, executive secretary of the media commission of the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, wrote in an email to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication urging for help...

Putin visits Syria airbase, orders start of pullout (BBC) President Vladimir Putin has ordered the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, during an unannounced visit there on Monday. Mr. Putin was met by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he arrived at the Russian Hmeimim airbase, near Latakia...

Protests near U.S. embassy in Beirut after Trump’s Jerusalem decision (The New York Times) Lebanese security forces on Sunday fired tear gas and water cannons into crowds that had gathered near the United States Embassy, in a sign that protests against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel may be escalating...

Mosul picks up the pieces after the fall of ISIS (The New York Times) For three years, this metropolis of three million people, Iraq’s second-largest city, lived under the harsh rule of the Islamic State. When the militant group was finally ousted in July, it signaled the beginning of the end of its self-declared caliphate, which once occupied a third of the country and much of Syria. American-backed Iraqi forces swept across the country, officially declaring the job finished this weekend. But the battle for Mosul lasted nearly nine months, killing thousands of people, displacing nearly a million and leaving entire districts in smoldering heaps of rubble...

Netanyahu expects EU to follow US recognition of Jerusalem (BBC) Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he expects European countries to follow the US in recognizing Jerusalem as his country’s capital. He is in Brussels for talks — the first time an Israeli prime minister has visited the city in more than 20 years...

Nuns at Orthodox monastery evacuated as California fire spreads (OCA.org) The nuns of Saint Barbara Monastery here were evacuated, along with their neighbors, after an explosive brush fire broke out late Monday, 4 December 2017. As widely reported in the media, fires continue to spread and threaten the entire Los Angeles region. “I learned from Mother Victoria that the monastery buildings still stand, but are not out of danger,” reported His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West on Thursday morning, 7 December. “The hillside behind the monastery burned and the monastery lavender field charred. So, the fire has come very close...”



7 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Palestinians protested President Trump’s announcement yesterday, in which he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (video: EuroNews/YouTube)

Protests over U.S. move on Jerusalem leave at least 16 injured (BBC) At least 16 Palestinians have been wounded in clashes in the occupied West Bank, during protests against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Reports suggest the injuries are mostly from tear gas and rubber bullets, but at least one was hurt by live fire. Israel has deployed hundreds of extra troops in the West Bank. Mr Trump’s announcement — met with worldwide dismay — reversed decades of US policy on the sensitive issue. Palestinians in the both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have gone on strike and taken to the streets in protest...

Russian military declares ISIS defeated in Syria (Reuters) Russia’s military said on Thursday it had accomplished its mission of defeating Islamic State in Syria, and there were no remaining settlements there under the group’s control. Russian bombers had used unprecedented force in the final stages to finish off the militant group, a senior Russian officer said...

Germany preparing to send refugees back to Syria (Foreign Policy) Later this week, the interior ministers of the German states will be discussing, and voting on, a proposal to be begin forcibly repatriating Syrian refugees once their asylum status lapses — as early as next June...

U.S. vows to keep sanctions on Russia over Ukraine (The Washington Post) U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that Ukraine was the sole sticking point keeping the United States and Russia from forging a closer relationship and that all other disputes were secondary. “The issue that stands in the way is Ukraine,” Tillerson said...

Can Putin get the Romanovs a Christian burial? (Newsweek) There is a political dimension to the story of the royal remains. It is widely believed, although not officially confirmed, that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, would like to organize a symbolic ceremony that would bring closure to Russia’s divisive and bloody twentieth century. Such an event could involve a burial of the two members of the royal family, the czarevich Alexei and his sister Maria, who have never been put to rest, and a solemn church recognition of all other remains as belonging to the Romanovs, who were all inducted into sainthood but whose bodies, from the Russian Orthodox Church’s viewpoint, have never been recovered...



Tags: Syria Palestine Israel Jerusalem Russia

6 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis delivers an appeal for Jerusalem during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 6 December. The pope expressed concern following reports that U.S. President Donald Trump plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as the capital of Israel.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)


U.S. plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital raising alarm in Middle East (The New York Times) President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American Embassy there, upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians...

Pope appeals for wisdom, prudence to prevail over Jerusalem (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for respect for Jerusalem’s status quo according to the pertinent United Nations Resolutions regarding the city. Speaking after his catechesis to the crowds in the Paul VI Hall during the weekly General Audience, the Pope said “my thoughts go to Jerusalem and I cannot keep silent my deep concern for the situation that has been created in the past days”...

Pope greets Palestinian delegation at audience (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis before his General Audience on Wednesday, greeted a Palestinian delegation hosted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue...

Protesters clash with police in Kiev (Radio Free Europe) Hundreds of anticorruption protesters clashed with police in Kiev, calling for the ouster of Ukaine’s president, as authorities launched a manhunt to find protest leader Mikheil Saakashvili after his dramatic escape from police custody. Ukrainian Prosecutor-General’s Office spokesman Andriy Lysenko said late on 5 December that the authorities ordered the manhunt for the former Georgian president after a chaotic scene in which Saakashvili’s supporters freed him from a police van after security forces stormed his apartment and detained him...

Indian archdiocese ready to gather evidence on Kandhamal martyrs (Vatican Radio) The Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in eastern India’s Odisha state is preparing to initiate the sainthood cause of those who perished in the 2008 anti-Christian violence by Hindu extremists in Kandhamal district. In a December 3 letter, Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar appointed Father Purushottam Nayak to research and prepare a dossier containing documents for some 100 martyrs of Kandhamal, Mattersindia reported...



Tags: India Ukraine Palestine Israel Jerusalem

5 December 2017
Catholic News Service




Residents carry their belongings as they evacuate their home on 2 December after flooding caused by Typhoon Ockhi in the coastal village of Chellanam in the southern state of Kerala, India. The storm claimed the lives of at least 32 poor Catholic fishermen who were at sea and 200 more were missing. (photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters)

A typhoon that rapidly developed on the southern Indian coast claimed the lives of at least 32 poor Catholic fishermen who were at sea and another 200 more were missing.

Thousands of other coastal residents had relocated to relief camps by 4 December, ucanews.com reported.

The confirmed deaths were in Kerala and Tamil Nadu states, according to government sources.

All the dead are Catholic men who had gone out to sea, said Father V. Wilfred, a priest of Vizhinjam parish, a fishing village near Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram.

Antony Silvaster, a Catholic fisherman in the fishing village of Vizhinjam, said there was no warning of the storm. He said that with 200 fishermen missing, the community expected the death toll to rise.

Worst affected was the coastal area near India’s southern tip, a Catholic stronghold.

Gusty winds and heavy rains began to lash the coast in southern India 30 November after a depression near Sri Lanka rapidly developed into a typhoon, named Ockhi. The storm’s intensity declined by 4 December.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India expressed solidarity with the fishing communities and offered prayers for the families affected by the storm.

“We offer our condolences to the families of all those who have lost their lives and we wish to comfort those who have been afflicted by pain and suffering caused by the devastating hurricane in the past few days,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, conference secretary general, said in a statement December.

The bishops’ conference also asked diocese throughout India to offer prayers during Masses 10 December.

Archbishop Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum and local priests traveled to the devastated area and began arranging for the delivery of relief supplies.

The Kerala government had opened 29 camps for an estimated 3,000 people forced from their homes. About 200 houses were destroyed, state Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty Amma told local media.

Father Justin Jude of Poonthura said people also lost boats and nets. He urged the government to provide adequate compensation so that fishing families could return to work as soon as possible.

Typhoons are rare on India’s west coast. The last major typhoon on the Kerala coast occurred in 1941, killing 62 people and destroying about 50,000 homes.



5 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, shown here celebrating the Divine Liturgy last September, has vowed to continue providing financial assistance to Syria.
(photo: Robert Duncan/CNS)


Patriarch vows Russian Orthodox Church will continue to help Syria (TASS) The Russian Orthodox Church will continue to provide assistance to Syria, with fundraising campaigns being organized in churches, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said at a meeting with Patriarch John X of Antioch on Tuesday...

Israel fires at Syrian military facility (Al Jazeera) Israel again fired missiles at a Syrian military facility near Damascus late on Monday, according to a war monitor, the second reported Israeli strike in Syria in the past week...

Lebanon’s prime minister rescinds resignation (Reuters) Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri rescinded his resignation on Tuesday and said all members of the government had agreed to stay out of conflicts in Arab countries. Hariri quit his job in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia a month ago but later said he might withdraw the resignation, providing all parties in Lebanon’s government agree to adhere to the state’s policy of “dissociation” from regional conflicts...

Coptic cathedral reopens after Palm Sunday bombing (World Watch Monitor) A Coptic cathedral has been restored and reopened eight months after a suicide bombing there on Palm Sunday killed 28 and injured 74 others. St George’s Cathedral in Tanta, north of Cairo, has been renamed the Cathedral of St George and the Martyrs, and its blood-splattered pillars have been left untouched as a reminder of what happened...

Gaza’s isolation takes toll on medical patients (CNN) CNN went to see what treatment for cancer patients is like in Gaza. Doctors describe a constant struggle to keep hospitals stocked with medicines and equipment...



1 December 2017
Greg Kandra




Patriarch Filaret of Kiev’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, shown here during a visit to Chicago in 2012, has reached out to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kiril and asked for forgiveness and an end to conflict.
(photo: YouTube)


Kiev’s Orthodox patriarch calls for dialogue, ‘forgiveness’ (AFP) The head of the Kiev-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church has called on Russian Patriarch Kirill to end “confrontation” between the two institutions for the sake of the faithful amid a rumbling conflict between Kiev and rebels...

Putin hopes Russian Orthodox Church will contribute to Syria’s reconstruction (TASS) Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced the hope that the Russian Orthodox Church, which enjoys tangible international authority, will be able to promote the process of postwar reconstruction in Syria. “I do hope that the Russian Orthodox Church, with reliance on its authority in the world, will be able to promote concerted action by the international community for the sake of Syria’s revival, for providing humanitarian assistance to its citizens and for restoring its ruined cultural and spiritual centers,” Putin said...

Peace talks on Syria extended two weeks (United Nations) Previewing what he said will be “not just a normal round of talks,” Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, insisted Thursday there should be no preconditions heading into the current round of discussions aimed at resolving the over six-year-long Syrian conflict that has resulted in immense human suffering...

Pope blesses Interreligious and Ecumenical Meeting for Peace (Vatican Radio) The meeting, which saw the participation of representatives of different faiths, took place on the second day of the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to Bangladesh. The 16 Rohingya — 12 men, two women and two young girls — traveled to Dhaka from Cox’s Bazar, the district bordering Myanmar where refugee camps are overflowing with more than 620,000 Rohingya who have fled violence in Myanmar. One by one, each one of the refugees approached the Pope at the end of the event and through the aid of an interpreter told him their stories and their experiences...

Syrian refugee uses musical talent (UNHCR) Three days a week, the bustle of daily life in one corner of Jordan’s remote Azraq refugee camp is drowned out by the driving beat of a traditional “doumbek” drum, loudly accompanied by two dozen singing and clapping children. Leading this joyful ensemble is 45-year-old Syrian refugee Ehsan Al Khalili, his hands a well-practiced blur of movement across the drum skin. His music class is aimed at children with disabilities living in the camp, but is open to all and hugely popular, judging by how quickly the plastic chairs in front of him fill up at the start of each session...



30 November 2017
Greg Kandra




Dramatic drone footage from October reveals the devastation of Raqqa, Syria. A new report states the U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria led to more than 800 civilian deaths over three years.
(video: RT/YouTube)


U.S.-led coalition has killed more than 800 in Syria, Iraq (Voice of America) The U.S.-led coalition targeting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq said Thursday its airstrikes have killed 801 civilians since late 2014. The figures came in the coalition's latest monthly statement about its investigations into reports of possible civilian casualties resulting from the strikes...

Syrians on Jordan’s border trapped in power struggle (Al Monitor) Stranded along Jordan’s northeastern border with Syria at Rukban for nearly two years, Mohammad Khader al-Mahya lives in misery. Some 50,000 Syrians live in a 3-year-old desert encampment, hundreds of miles from the nearest city and cut off from international aid workers in a closed military zone...

Study: Ethiopia is an outlier of Orthodoxy (Pew Research Center) Ethiopia has the largest Orthodox Christian population outside Europe, and, by many measures, Orthodox Ethiopians have much higher levels of religious commitment than do Orthodox Christians in the faith’s heartland of Central and Eastern Europe...

Report: Armenia repeatedly violates ceasefire with Azerbaijan (APA) Armenia’s armed forces have 127 times violated the ceasefire along the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops over the past 24 hours, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry told APA on 30 November...

Pope’s message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is encouraging Catholics and Orthodox not only to further theological dialogue between them, but also to promote joint initiatives on issues such as caring for the environment, peaceful coexistence among peoples and the presence of Christians in the Middle East, without waiting for the day of full and visible communion...



29 November 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A rebel fighter helps an elderly Syrian refugee return to Syria after crossing the Jordanian border. Reports indicate a small number of refugees are returning to Syria from camps in Jordan.
(photo: Mohamad Abazeed/AFP/Getty Images)


Lebanon’s president says Hariri to remain as prime minister (Reuters) Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that Saad al-Hariri will “certainly” remain prime minister and Lebanon’s political crisis will be resolved in a few days, an Italian newspaper reported on Wednesday...

More refugees returning to Syria from Jordan (AlBawaba.com) The number of Syrian refugees returning voluntarily to Syria from Jordan has been “slightly” rising since a tripartite agreement to back a ceasefire in southwest Syria went into effect early July. In October, there were some 750 returns from Jordan to Syria, compared with 1,078 voluntary returns in September, 1,203 in August and about 631 in July...

Stirrings of hope in Gaza (The Independent) Over recent weeks the early signs that Gaza’s isolation may finally be coming to an end has given a wary and weary civilian population the stirrings of hope. 1 December will be another key milestone in a negotiation process launched in mid-October by the two main Palestinian political parties — Fatah and Hamas — aimed at returning the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by Mahmoud Abbas, to Gaza after a 10-year absence...

Ukraine thanks Israel for support in Crimea (The Jerusalem Post) Over a busy two-day visit to Israel, Ukraine Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin stressed the importance of Jerusalem’s support in international forums regarding Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the Donbass. He also gave priority to discussions about economic relations between Israel and Ukraine...

What archeology is revealing about the tomb of Jesus (National Geographic) Over the centuries, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre has suffered violent attacks, fires, and earthquakes. It was totally destroyed in 1009 and subsequently rebuilt, leading modern scholars to question whether it could possibly be the site identified as the burial place of Christ by a delegation sent from Rome some 17 centuries ago. Now the results of scientific tests provided to National Geographic appear to confirm that the remains of a limestone cave enshrined within the church are remnants of the tomb located by the ancient Romans...

Vatican issues stamps featuring Pope Francis at Armenian Genocide Memorial (The Armenian Weekly) Designed by Daniela Longo, the stamp depicts Pope Francis at the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex (Tsitsernakaberd), which he visited on 25 June. The pope was accompanied by the Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin II, as well as Armenian President Serge Sarkisian and First Lady Rita Sarkisian...







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