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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
6 September 2013
Greg Kandra




People walk near destroyed buildings and debris in Deir al-Zor, Syria, on 4 September.
(photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)


U.S. orders diplomats out of Lebanon (AP) The State Department on Friday ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon due to security concerns as the Obama administration and Congress debate military strikes on neighboring Syria. In a new travel warning for Lebanon, the department said it had instructed nonessential staffers to leave Beirut and urged private American citizens to depart Lebanon. The step had been under consideration since last week when President Barack Obama said he was contemplating military action against the Syrian government for its alleged chemical weapons attack last month that the administration said killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus. “The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains,” the department said...

Divisons remain over Syria at G20 summit (Vatican Radio) World leaders are continuing their discussions on the final day of the G20 Summit in St Petersburg, Russia. Divisions still remain on what sort of action to take on Syria. President Barack Obama told G20 leaders the United States has high confidence that Syrian forces used chemical weapons and underlined the need to uphold an international ban on the use of such weapons.But Russia, China and the EU are still opposed to a military solution...

Vatican’s Foreign Secretary meets with diplomats to discuss Syria (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Secretary for Foreign Relations Archbishop Dominque Mamberti has met with world ambassadors accredited to the Holy See to discuss Pope Francis’ initiative calling for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on Saturday 7 September. In a briefing for journalists about Thursday’s meeting, Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, denied “in the most complete manner” that Pope Francis had telephoned Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Fr. Lombardi was responding to reports in Italian media which he described as “devoid of foundation”...

Cardinal McCarrick: no strikes in Syria; don’t repeat mistakes of Iraq (CNS) Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, said he opposed U.S. military intervention in Syria, adding that he was “not in favor of going to war to make peace.” “We made the mistake in Iraq. I hope we don’t make the mistake again in Syria,” he told Catholic News Service 5 September after visiting some of the nearly half-million refugees who had fled to Jordan, Syria’s southern neighbor. When asked what was worst, either allow Syria to use chemical weapons and do nothing or go in with limited military strikes, he quickly responded: “Neither is the proper answer”...

Archbishop Pendergast heartened by aid projects in Ethiopia (Catholic Register) Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast returned from a recent visit to Ethiopia pleased with how money is being spent in projects being funded by Canadian Catholics. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace had launched campaigns to raise funds to avert food crises in both the Sahel Region and the Horn of Africa in recent years. Prendergast was part of the delegation formed so Canadian Catholics can see what is being done with their money. “Ethiopia was considered the safest option and, though (D&P) has had involvement there for many years, no one had visited,” he said...



5 September 2013
Greg Kandra




In this image from last March, U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, arrives for a prayer service with eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal O’Brien calls for prayers for Syria (CNS) As threats of military intervention against Syria escalate and the country’s future remains uncertain, a U.S. cardinal said that, no matter what transpires, prayer is urgently needed. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, said that “whatever happens, if there is going to be peace in Syria and anywhere, prayer has to be a part of it.” The cardinal spoke on 5 September during a Vatican news conference presenting the chivalric order’s consultative meeting that will see a revision of its statutes and its upcoming pilgrimage to Rome as part of the Year of Faith. The order, which has members in 35 countries, particularly in North America and Western Europe, supports the pastoral and educational work of the church in the Holy Land...

Pope seeks Putin’s support in stopping Syrian air strikes (Catholic Register) In an open letter to Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis has appealed to the Russian President and world leaders gathering in St. Petersburg for a G-20 Summit to find a non-military solution to the crisis in Syria. “To the leaders present, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” the Pope wrote. “Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community.” The Pope’s letter came as world leaders arrived for a two-day summit that was intended to focus on the world economy but now will be dominated by the looming threat of U.S. intervention in Syria. Congress will vote early next week on whether to support President Barack Obama’s call for air strikes on military targets in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack allegedly directed by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad that killed 1,429 people, including hundreds of children...

Syrian Christians say Western attack would make matters worse (NCR) Although President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are consulting their own legislatures before using force in Syria, there’s a constituency with far more at stake they might also poll that would likely deliver a resounding no: Syria’s Christians. Those Christians may be no fans of the regime of President Bashar Assad, but they generally prefer it to what they see as the likely alternative — rising Islamic fundamentalism and Iraq-style chaos, in which religious minorities such as themselves would be among the primary victims. “We heard a lot about democracy and freedom from the U.S. in Iraq, and we see now the results — how the country came to be destroyed,” said Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo in a recent interview. “The first to lose were the Christians of Iraq.” “We must say that, what the U.S. did in Iraq, we don’t want repeated in Syria,” Audo said...

Christian, Muslim leaders examine challenges of Arab Christians (CNS) For decades, Arab Christians have been fleeing the Holy Land and the rest of the Middle East in droves, mainly because of violence. Within the past two-and-a-half years, some 450,000 Christians are believed to be among the 2 million people who have fled the civil war in Syria, an ancient land of historic churches, the country where St. Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus. Some 70 high-ranking Arab church leaders, together with their Western counterparts, and Muslim clerics gathered in Amman for a meeting on 3-4 September aimed at tackling “the challenges of Arab Christians.” The Christian and Muslims leaders aimed to find a way to end the sectarian strife threatening their people and countries. “We must confront extremist trends,” Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, told the gathering. He said it was the duty of religious leaders and their communities to work jointly “to get the new generation to accept ‘the other,’” in order to “isolate these trends”...



4 September 2013
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees carry their belongings as they enter the Turkish Cilvegozu border gate on 4 September. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said there had been a near tenfold increase over the past 12 months in the number of refugees crossing Syria’s borders into Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon — to a daily average of nearly 5,000 people.
(photo: CNS/Umit Bektas, Reuters)


Pope Francis renews his appeal for peace (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Syria and throughout the world on Wednesday, once again inviting Christians of every denomination, believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will to take part in the worldwide fast and vigil of prayer and penance for peace, which he has called for 7 September, the vigil of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, whom we venerate as Queen of Peace. Many local Churches have already organized their own initiatives to mark the day...

Syrians face psychological trauma (Vatican Radio) Syrians caught up in the civil war face lasting psychological trauma, as well as violence and deprivation. Caritas Internationalis talked about the situation in Syria, and about the situation of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, in its annual report published last July. It also issued a statement last Friday calling for dialogue as the only possible solution to the Syrian crisis, and warning against military intervention...

Islam’s Grand Mufti of Syria welcomes pope’s call for prayer (Fides) In St. Peter’s Square or in the great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, spiritual leader of Sunni Islam, welcomes the Pope’s appeal and will be there praying and fasting for peace in his country. The Mufti sent, through the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus, an official letter to Pope Francis and is preparing to participate in the special pro-Syria day on 7 September, proposing to the Holy See to organize an interfaith meeting...

Rosh Hashana begins (Los Angeles Daily News) Sundown Wednesday signals the start of Rosh Hashana, the two-day holiday marking the Jewish New Year. Services ushering in the year 5774 on the Hebrew calendar will feature the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn. Rosh Hashana is a festive time when Jews gather with family members to reflect on the past year and the new one that is beginning. Celebrants also eat festive meals featuring apples dipped in honey, symbolic of the wishes for a sweet year. Rosh Hashana begins a 10-day period of penitence and contemplation leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Judaism’s most solemn and somber day. Jewish tradition holds that God records the fate of humankind in the Book of Life during the High Holy Days...



3 September 2013
Greg Kandra




In the video above from Sunday, Pope Francis asks during the Angelus for the international community to use all efforts to achieve peace in Syria. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis calls for a day of fasting, prayer for Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the entire Mideast region, and throughout the whole world to be held this coming Saturday, 7 September, 2013. Speaking ahead of the traditional Angelus prayer with pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square this Sunday, Pope Francis said, “On [Saturday] the 7th of September, here [in St Peter’s Square], from 7 PM until midnight, we will gather together in prayer, in a spirit of penitence, to ask from God this great gift [of peace] for the beloved Syrian nation and for all the situations of conflict and violence in the world.” The Holy Father also invited non-Catholic Christians and non-Christian believers to participate in ways they feel are appropriate...

Israel and U.S. carry out joint missile test (BBC) Israel has carried out a joint missile test with the U.S. in the Mediterranean, amid heightened tension over possible Western military strikes on Syria. The test came as the U.S. Congress prepared for its first public hearing on a possible military response to alleged chemical weapons use by Syria. Earlier, the UN confirmed that more than two million Syrians were now refugees from the 30-month conflict. More Syrians were now displaced than any other nationality, it said...

Pope names veteran diplomat as new Secretary of State (CNS) Although Pope Francis has not hesitated to break with convention during his brief pontificate, in appointing a seasoned member of the diplomatic corps as the top Vatican official, he resumed a long-standing tradition. The pope appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, a longtime official in the Vatican secretariat of state and nuncio to Venezuela since 2009, to be his secretary of state. On 15 October, Archbishop Parolin will succeed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78, who came to the post in 2006 after serving as archbishop of Genoa, Italy. The secretary of state is the pope’s highest-ranking collaborator, coordinating the work of the entire Roman Curia, overseeing the operation of the Vatican press office and newspaper, coordinating the preparation and publication of papal documents, and supervising the work of Vatican nuncios, in their relations with Catholic communities in individual countries and with national governments...

Orthodox synod calls for prayers for Egypt (OCA.org) On 30 August 2013, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon and the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, issued a statement calling for prayers for all who are suffering in the crisis currently gripping Egypt, and especially that nation’s minority Christian community...

Pope Francis meets with Jewish leaders, wishes them a happy new year (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday wished Jews around the world a sweet and peaceful year 5774, called for increased dialogue among the world’s religious communities and opposed fundamentalism in any faith. During his first private audience with an international Jewish leader since being elected Catholic pontiff in March, Francis asked World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder to convey his New Year message to Jewish communities world-wide and said he also needed a sweet year because of the important decisions lying ahead. Using the Hebrew words for ‘Happy New Year,’ Pope Francis wished a “Shana Tova” and asked the WJC to share that message with the Jewish people worldwide. Lauder presented the pope with a Kiddush cup and a honey cake.

Buddhists, Muslims, Christians attend ecumenical gathering in Ethiopia (Independent Catholic News) On Sunday 25 August, in Adigrat, in the northern region of Tigray, Ethiopia, 174 people — among them Buddhists, Muslims and Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians, gathered in the main hall of Bruh Tesfa Youth Development Centre, a youth centre run by the Missionaries of Africa, as they do once a year, to break “injera” in an ecumenical ambiance to celebrate the numerous successes of the centre together. At the gathering in Tigray, some of the attendees were members of staff, students who had successfully completed their end of year exams, nine university graduates that Bruh Tesfa has supported in their studies, and a couple of missionaries of Africa. But the vast majority were Christian Orthodox priests and deacons; and on the high table an Imam, a representative of the Orthodox bishop, the Orthodox dean of the Nihibi-Dibla area of Adigrat and the Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Adigrat sat next to each other...



30 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqis in Baghdad demonstrate on 30 August against the possibility of a U.S. military strike against the Syrian government. As speculation mounted about air strikes on Syria, Western church leaders warned military intervention could lead to an escalation of hostilities. (photo: CNS/Kareem Raheem, Reuters)

Syrian civilians in desperate need as threat of U.S. strike looms (Al Jazeera) Any escalation of the Syrian crisis in response to last week’s reported chemical weapons attack will aggravate civilian suffering, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday, as UNESCO warned that Syria’s rich cultural heritage is being destroyed and archaeological sites looted. Magne Barth, head of the I.C.R.C.’s delegation in Syria, said proposed Western military action would “likely trigger more displacement and add to humanitarian needs, which are already immense.” Some 2 million people have already fled Syria, including 1 million children. Human rights groups estimate that over 100,000 people have been killed since the war began. Areas plagued by heavy fighting — including the countryside around Damascus, eastern Aleppo and Deir Ezzor province — are also reeling from breakdowns of basic services such as water, electricity and garbage collection, the I.C.R.C. said…

Copts in West campaign against Muslim Brotherhood (AINA) Expatriate Copts in Western capitals launched campaigns to draw attention to the violence of the Muslim Brotherhood and to expose it as a terrorist organization, and to support the Egyptian army. “We are also angry with the bias of the western media, which still talks of the June 30 demonstrations as a coup … when over 33,000,000 citizens went out to the streets all over Egypt calling for the ousting of [Muhammad] Morsi,” said activist Mark Ebeid…

Perpetual adoration to beg for peace and stop terrorism (Fides) In the Monastery of St. James in Qarah, a city between Damascus and Homs, the resident community — an ecumenical community of 20 men and women religious of 8 nationalities and of different Christian denominations — dedicate their days to ceaseless prayer. The Rev. Daniel Maes, a Belgian Catholic priest and the community’s head, told Fides that today and in the coming days the priests and nuns would give life to a nightly Eucharistic adoration for the intention of peace…

‘We live in fear of more violence,’ says Indian Jesuit (AsiaNews) “When they march in front of our church during demonstrations organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, protesters are amazed that the building is still there,” the Rev. Bimal Kerketta told AsiaNews. Originally from India, the priest has been in Egypt for ten years working as the principal of the school run by the Jesuit Fathers in Minya. “Each day, they gather in front of the building to shout slogans of intimidation. I fear that tomorrow’s event will lead to fresh acts of violence…”

Bishop Hanna: We reject any aggression on Syria (SANA) Jerusalem’s citizens held a gathering at the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to express sympathy with Syria which is exposed to threats and pressures targeting its stance and national role. In a speech in front of the participants, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Atallah Hanna of Sebastia called on all honest people to reject the foreign intervention in Syria that is planned by western countries, particularly the United States…



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Monastery Indian Catholics Church of the Holy Sepulchre

29 August 2013
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets the king of Jordan and his wife this morning at the Vatican.
(photo: News.va/Reuters)


Pope Francis meets with King of Jordan (News.va) Pope Francis received this morning in audience the King of Jordan, Abdullah II and his wife Rania. “Welcome Majesty” were the words of welcome by Pope Francis. King Abdullah in turn welcomed the Holy Father saying that it was a pleasure and an honor to meet him, and he conveyed the greetings from his family and all the people of Jordan.” “It is an immense honor to meet you,” said also Queen Rania. King Abdullah began the conversation while stressing “the immense respect he has for what the Pope does and also for the Catholic Church.” During the cordial meeting, several topics of mutual interest were discussed, especially the promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East, the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and the question of Jerusalem. A special attention was paid to the plight faced by Syria. In this regard, it was reaffirmed that the voice of dialogue and negotiation between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international community, is the only option for ending the conflict and the violence which every day cause the loss of so many lives, especially among the population which is defenseless...

Obama says he “has not made a decision” on Syria military strike (CBS News) President Obama has not yet decided on U.S. action in Syria, where he says his administration has “concluded” President Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons in an attack against civilians last week near Damascus. “I have gotten options with our military, had extensive conversations with my national security team,” the president said Wednesday in an interview with “PBS News Hour.” “If the Assad regime used chemical weapons on his own people, then that would change some of our calculations — and the reason has to do with not only international norms but America’s own self-interest”...

Patriarch Gregorios III says U.S. strike on Syria would be “criminal” (ByzCath.org) Speaking from Damascus, the leader of the Melkite Catholic Church has told the Asia News service that an American-led assault on Syria would be “a criminal act, which will only reap more victims.” Patriarch Gregory III Laham said that the US and other Western nations have done nothing to stop an influx of “Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill.” Today the country desperately needs stability, he said, and “an armed attack against the government really has no sense at all”...

Christians restrain anger after church attacks in Egypt (AFP) Coptic Christians in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya are managing to restrain their anger despite a wave of devastating attacks on their churches and institutions by enraged Islamists. Tensions are still running high more than two weeks after the attacks in the city some 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of Cairo but there have been no calls for vengeance, nor any fiery rhetoric. “I say to the Islamists who attacked us that we are not afraid of their violence and their desire to exterminate the Copts,” said Botros Fahim Awad Hanna, the archbishop of Minya. “If we are not hitting back, it is not because we are afraid, but because we are sensible,” he said...

Conference on religious tolerance begins in Ethiopia (Sudan Tribune) A national conference aimed at promoting peaceful co-existence and tolerance among religious groups in Ethiopia kicked off on Tuesday in the capital, Addis Ababa. The conference, organised by the ministry of federal affairs and the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council is being attended by some 2,500 participants from across the country. The three-day conference is being held under the theme: “We shall strive to realise Ethiopia’s renaissance through strengthening the value of religious co-existence and respecting constitutional provisions”. In his opening speech, Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn called on the public to remain tolerant and to join hands in battling what he called acts of extremists...



28 August 2013
Greg Kandra




United Nations chemical weapons experts inspect one of the sites of an alleged poison gas attack in the Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya on 26 August. The U.N. inspectors in Syria met and took samples from victims of an apparent poison gas attack in the rebel-held area. (photo: CNS/Abo Alnour Alhaji, Reuters)

Dread grips Damascus as United States mulls military strike (The Daily Star) A heavy sense of dread pervades Damascus, as Washington and its allies mull military action after alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime outside the capital last week reportedly killed hundreds of people. Jihan is convinced the first United States strike on Syria would hit Mezzeh military airport near her Damascus home, and has already packed her family’s bags, ready to flee the capital. “They’ll hit Mezzeh, I’m sure; the target makes sense,” the young mother said of the facility, which President Bashar al Assad himself uses to travel within Syria…

Chaldean patriarch: Intervention against Syria would be a ‘disaster’ (Fides) The United States-led military intervention against Syria would be “a disaster,” according to Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I. “It would be like a volcano erupting with an explosion meant to destroy Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine. And maybe someone wants this.” The patriarch made his statement to Fides Agency with regards to his concern over the prospect of an outside attack, which seems to be imminent…

Russian Orthodox patriarchate expresses ‘strong concern’ about developments in Syria (Asia News) As a Western military intervention against the regime of Bashar al Assad appears increasingly likely, the Russian Orthodox Church expresses “strong concern” about possible developments of the crisis, this following United States charges that the regime used chemical weapons against civilians. “Once again, as was the case in Iraq, the United States is acting as an international executioner,” said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate…

Last group of Ethiopian Jews set to arrive in Israel (Jerusalem Post) The Jewish Agency is to bring the last of Ethiopia’s Jews to Israel on Wednesday afternoon with a flight of 400 Falash Mura, bringing an end to a saga that has spanned decades and seen tens of thousands of men, women and children coming to the Jewish state. Ethiopian-Israelis are planning a protest outside of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office at the same time that a plane representing the official end of Ethiopian aliya — the immigration of Jews to Israel — is scheduled to land at Ben-Gurion Airport…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Israel Russian Orthodox Church Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

27 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Men make homemade masks for protection against chemical attacks in the Damascus suburb of Zamalka in Syria on 23 August. Pope Francis denounced the atrocities in Syria, calling again for all sides to end to the fighting. (photo: CNS/Hadi Almonajed, Reuters)

Aleppo Christians fear Iraq-style ethnic cleansing (Al Monitor) It would be accurate to describe some areas of Aleppo as “Christian,” although this by no means implies any sort of self- or externally imposed segregation or discrimination. Residents of other faiths are found, and get along in those areas. Christians have enjoyed a large degree of social and religious freedom under the current regime. It is this unique identity and way of life that will most likely be the first victim of a rebel victory. With some rebel groups being largely made up of extremist Islamists and Al Qaeda affiliates, it is not such a stretch to deduce that Christians in Syria may suffer the same fate as they did in Iraq. For these reasons, one is likely to find young Christian men in Aleppo taking up arms and manning checkpoints to defend themselves…

Prayer and fasting for missing Jesuit in Syria (Fides) At the monastery of St. Moses the Ethiopian in Syria, 27 August, the eve of the liturgical feast of St. Moses, will be marked by prayer and fasting for the release of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio and for peace in Syria. This was reported to Fides Agency by Father Jacques Mourad, head of this historic monastic community of Syrian Catholics, re-founded in 1982 by Father Dall’Oglio. Over the years, the monastery opened its doors to accommodate members of other Christian denominations and launched a joint ecumenical spiritual community, which promotes dialogue between Christianity and Islam…

Syrian bishop warns intervention could spark ‘world war’ (AINA) A Syrian Chaldean Catholic bishop on Monday warned that an armed intervention in Syria could unleash a “world war,” while the Vatican’s official newspaper called for more “prudence” from Western powers. “If there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war. That risk has returned,” Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo told Vatican radio. “We hope that the pope’s call for real dialogue between the warring parties to find a solution can be a first step to stop the fighting,” he said…

Chaldean patriarch to Kurdistan Christians: Don’t sell your homes (Fides) Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I urged Christians of Iraqi Kurdistan to “cling to their villages” and not to sell the houses and lands passed down from their fathers. Iraqi Kurdistan, traditionally considered a safe place for Christians, has become just “the last stop” in Iraq for many seeking to emigrate abroad…

Indian diocese works to fight human trafficking (Fides) Human trafficking, mainly of women and girls, is one of the most serious violations of human dignity and human rights. Alarmed by the increase in cases of trafficking and exploitation of tribal girls, the Diocese of Ranchi in Jharkhand, northeastern state of India, has initiated a program aimed at protecting health, economic and social integration of the most vulnerable individuals. The project covers 30 villages in the district of Bero, about 20 miles west of Ranchi…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Iraqi Christians Emigration Indian Catholics human trafficking

26 August 2013
Greg Kandra




Civilians watch as workers remove debris and search rubble for casualties at building hit by shelling in the Bustan al Qasr district of Aleppo, Syria, on 21 August.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)


U.N. says snipers fired on weapons inspectors in Syria (New York Times) United Nations inspectors heading toward the site of a suspected chemical attack in Syria came under fire “multiple times by unidentified snipers” as they sought to cross into rebel-held territory on Monday, the United Nations said, and the first car in their convoy was hit. While there were no immediate reports of injuries, “the car was no longer serviceable,” so the inspectors “returned safely back to the Government check-point,” the United Nations said in a statement in New York, urging the combatants to cooperate with their effort to establish what happened in the attack last Wednesday. “The team will return to the area after replacing the vehicle,” the statement said...

Pope Francis renews calls for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) After the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis renewed his call for peace in Syria. “It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.” The Holy Father called on the International Community to do everything in its power to help the “beloved Syrian nation” find a solution to the ongoing conflict. At the end of his remarks, Pope Francis lead all those listening in a prayer to Mary, Queen of Peace...

Patriarch: Christians pay highest price in Mideast conflicts (Vatican Radio) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter says Christians always pay the highest price when conflicts erupt in Middle East countries such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The cardinal also said that outside countries, especially in the West but also elsewhere, are helping to foment these conflicts...

Egyptian military using religion in propaganda campaign (New York Times) The Egyptian military has enlisted Muslim scholars in a propaganda campaign to persuade soldiers and policemen that they have a religious duty to obey orders to use deadly force against supporters of the ousted president, Muhammad Morsi. The effort is a signal that the generals are worried about insubordination in the ranks, after security forces have killed hundreds of their fellow Egyptians who were protesting against the military’s removal of the elected president — violence by the armed forces against civilians that is without precedent in the country’s modern history. The recourse to religion to justify the killing is also a new measure of the depth of the military’s determination to break down the main pillar of Mr. Morsi’s support, the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Ethiopian nun who may be Jerusalem’s best-kept musical secret (The Guardian) From a small, spartan room in the courtyard of the Ethiopian church off a narrow street in Jerusalem, a 90-year-old musical genius is emerging into the spotlight. For almost three decades, Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guebrù has been closeted at the church, devoting herself to her life’s twin themes — faith and music. The Ethiopian nun, whose piano compositions have enthralled those who have stumbled across a handful of recordings in existence, has lived a simple life, rarely venturing beyond the monastery’s gates. But this month the nonagenarian’s scribbled musical scores have been published as a book, ensuring the long-term survival of her music. And on Tuesday, the composer will hear her work played in concert for the first time, at three performances in Jerusalem. Guebrù may even play a little.



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Jerusalem United Nations

23 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Grafitti is seen on the walls of an annex of the Chaldean Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Cairo on 18 August. The writing in red reads: “Dog of Israel.” The message in black calls Egypt’s army chief a traitor. Christians, making up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, have coexisted with the majority Sunni Muslims for centuries. Violence erupted periodically, especially in the impoverished south, but the attacks on churches and Christian properties in the last week were the worst in years. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)

‘Death to Christians’ a mantra among extremists in Egypt (Our Sunday Visitor) As the war continues to rage, Copts find themselves not only as collateral damage, but as targets of a powerful political group intent on pandemonium. Nuns were paraded through the streets like prisoners of war. In a kind of reverse Passover, Christian homes were marked for destruction. And it doesn’t look like peace will be coming soon for Egypt’s ancient Coptic Church, the primarily Orthodox community that makes up about 10 percent of the population. “The situation for Copts in Egypt is really tragic, and I fear it will only get worse,” reports Sophia Jones, a Cairo-based correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor. “Coptic homes have been marked with X’s before they are burned, dozens of churches have been destroyed, as well as businesses and Coptic orphanages.” Pope Francis called for “peace, dialogue and reconciliation” in Egypt, and includes in his prayers "the victims and their families, the injured and all those who are suffering.” Besides prayer, Catholics also can help Egyptian Christians via the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Its website specifically accepts donations in support of Copts…

U.N.: Syrian child refugees count hits one million (Vatican Radio) The number of Syrian children living as refugees has reached one million, while another two million have been displaced within the country or recruited as fighters. This latest number comes from the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR and the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF. The U.N. said that the number of children living as refugees now accounts for half of all Syrians driven abroad by the conflict…

Russia urges Syria to cooperate with chemical weapons inquiry (New York Times) Russia urged President Bashar al Assad’s government on Friday to allow United Nations investigators to examine evidence of a suspected chemical weapons attack this week, joining the United States in seeking a full accounting of what happened early Wednesday in the Damascus suburbs. “The Russian side called on the Syrian government to cooperate with the U.N. chemical experts,” according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. Russia, which has supported Mr. Assad throughout the conflict, has accused the rebels of staging the attack to implicate the government. The Syrian government has denied any involvement. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, said at a diplomatic forum in Seoul on Friday that he could “think of no good reason why any party, either government or opposition forces, would decline this opportunity to get to the truth of the matter…”

Twin blasts kill at least 27 in northern Lebanon (Al Jazeera) Two explosions killed at least 27 people and injured hundreds Friday in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, according to the Lebanese health minister. Ambulances rushed to the scene, and heavy black smoke covered the sky. Preliminary estimates from the health minister reported around 350 people injured in the explosions. The blasts went off near two mosques, which were filled with people on the Muslim day of prayer. A gun battle then broke out nearby between Jabal Mohsen, which supports Syria’s President Bashar al Assad, and the anti-Assad group Bab al Tabbaneh. Tripoli has seen clashes between Sunnis and Alawites, a Shiite sect to which Assad belongs…



Tags: Egypt Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians





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