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March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
10 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2007 photo, Mother Bellegia Shayaf, superior of the Antiochene Orthodox Monastery of St. Tekla in Maaloula, walks to lunch with one of the 20 orphaned girls in the care of her community. (photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)

Ban appeals for safety of missing Orthodox Christian nuns in Syria (U.N. News Center) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today appealed for the safety of 12 nuns who went missing from a convent in the Syrian town of Maaloula and all those who may be detained against their will in the strife-torn nation. Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement that the secretary general remains “deeply troubled” by the targeting of places of worship and religious representatives in Syria’s conflict…

U.N. to deliver aid to Syria via Iraq (New York Times) United Nations relief agencies are preparing to make their first deliveries of aid from Iraq to Syria this week but it remains unclear whether this will prove a regular channel of assistance, the U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday. An airlift of 12 flights using Russian-built Ilyushin cargo aircraft is to start on Thursday and last until Sunday delivering food and other assistance from Iraq to Kurdish areas of Syria’s northeastern Hassake province, according to Amin Awad, the director of the Middle East and North Africa bureau at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees…

‘Historic’ water deal signed by Israel, Jordan and Palestinians (Al Jazeera) Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians signed a historic water-sharing initiative at the World Bank in Washington on Monday. The deal capped 11 years of water negotiations, and came as the United States continues to push a new effort to forge a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. The project envisions a new desalination plant at Aqaba, where Jordan meets the Red Sea, as the linchpin of a sharing deal involving Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian government in the West Bank. Advocates say the project could protect water resources in the region amid rising demand, a continuing political impasse between Israelis and Palestinians, and concerns that climate change could threaten supplies…

F.A.O.: Waste denies human right to food (Vatican Radio) About one-third of all food produced is not eaten and, if food waste continues along this track, about 60 per cent more food will have to be produced by 2050 to meet the world’s food needs, says the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. But Robert van Otterdijk, agro-industry officer at the F.A.O., says such over-production can be kept at bay and the environment protected by simply reducing food waste. Mr. van Otterdijk says food waste is high on the world political agenda. To that end, the F.A.O. has gathered more than 150 organizations, whose mission is to reduce food loss and waste, for a two-day meeting in Rome. The groups will discuss ways to streamline initiatives and coordinate their efforts…

Church and people in Ukraine demand autonomy from Moscow (AsiaNews) As people of Ukraine continue street protests demanding integration with Europe and autonomy from Moscow, local Orthodox church leaders have openly taken sides in favor of the protesters, appealed for autocephaly, or independence from other churches. The positions of Patriarch Filaret, the 84-year-old head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Kievan Patriarchate, may find an unreceptive audience in Moscow…



Tags: Ukraine Sisters United Nations Hunger Ukrainian Orthodox Church

9 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




A man throws a flare in the direction of Interior Ministry members during a rally in Kiev, Ukraine, 1 December. (photo: CNS/Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

Ukraine police dismantle Kiev protest camps (BBC) Ukrainian police have begun dismantling protest camps in front of government buildings in Kiev. An opposition party said the police had also raided their headquarters. The protesters had been given until Tuesday to leave. No clashes have been reported. Opposition leaders urged supporters to defend Independence Square, the main protest site. The standoff follows weeks of unrest after a U-turn on a free-trade deal with the European Union. The protesters have given Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych 48 hours to dismiss the government and are demanding new elections for the presidency and government…

Ukraine protests: Why Moscow played hardball with Kiev (Christian Science Monitor) Earlier this year, Russia had, at least publicly, stayed out of the discussion of Ukraine moving closer to the E.U. Then, over the summer, the Ukrainian government began to put forward legislation demanded by the E.U. as a condition for signing an “association agreement,” which would have deepened ties between Kiev and Brussels. Moscow responded accordingly. In July, imports of chocolates from Ukraine were banned, due to “quality concerns.” A few weeks later, lengthy traffic backups started appearing along the two countries’ border, as Moscow imposed tough new inspections on Ukrainian goods ranging from steel to beer to railway cars and locomotives. “All of sudden, it becomes clear to the Kremlin that there was a possibility that the Ukrainians might sign [the agreements] … and the Kremlin elevated it to a geopolitical competition,” says Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Europe Center…

Chaldean patriarch: The flame of hope lights up Christmas for Iraqi Christians (AsiaNews) In his Christmas message, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael urges Christians to be steadfast and keep the faith alive even amid “suffering, anxiety and … considerable challenges.” Despite a difficult time for Iraq’s Christian minority, which has seen its size cut by half in the past ten years, the Chaldean leader expressed hope, thanking his community for their “perseverance,” and for the courage with which they bear witness to the “flame of hope,” following the example of Abraham…

Pope celebrates Mass with Egyptian patriarch (Vatican Radio) At his daily Mass on Monday, Pope Francis appealed for an end to division and hatred in the Holy Land and the Middle East. The Holy Father concelebrated the Mass with Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac on the occasion of the public manifestation of “ecclesiastical communion” between the patriarch and the successor of Peter. The pope spoke about his closeness to Egyptian Christians who are experiencing insecurity and violence, then renewed his appeal for religious liberty throughout the whole of the Middle East…

Syria nuns appear in video, deny kidnapping by rebels (Yahoo! News) A group of nuns from the historic Christian town of Maaloula in Syria denied they were kidnapped by rebels, in a video broadcast by Al Jazeera news channel on Friday. It was unclear who was filming the women or where they were. “A group brought us here and protected us, and we’re very happy with them,” one of the nuns said. An unidentified man asked the nuns questions, with several taking turns to speak. It was unclear if they were being pressured to talk, and some of the women bowed their heads as the camera turned to them. In the video, several of the nuns said they were in good health and that they fled Maaloula after intense shelling there…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Ukraine Sisters Russia

6 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




South African President Nelson Mandela assists Pope John Paul II at the Johannesburg International Airport in 1995, at the start of the pope’s first official visit to South Africa. Mandela, who led the struggle to end the country’s apartheid regime, died on 5 December at age 95 at his home in Johannesburg. (photo: CNS/Patrick De Noirmont, Reuters)

Pope extends condolences to the family of Nelson Mandela (VIS) Pope Francis sent a telegram of condolence to Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, on the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela yesterday. In the text, the Pope extended his condolences to the Mandela family, members of government and all South Africans. Pope Francis recalled: “the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation, and truth…”

UNHCR chief: Pope Francis is symbol of hope (Vatican Radio) Today, Pope Francis received in audience the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres. As high commissioner, Mr. Guterres heads one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations, with more than 7,000 staff working in 126 countries providing protection and assistance to millions of refugees, returnees, internally displaced people and stateless persons. Tracey McClure spoke with the former Portuguese prime minister following his meeting with Pope Francis, and he had this to say: “Since ever, the Catholic Church has been absolutely impeccable in putting in the agenda the need to respect the rights of refugees, the rights of migrants, the need for societies to be tolerant, for societies to respect diversity — and this has been a constant line of advocacy for the Catholic Church. But I think Pope Francis gave a new dimension to this…”

‘Assad’s nun’ becomes unlikely power broker in Syrian civil war (National Post) Amid Syria’s ferocious civil war, a nun has emerged as an unlikely power broker and figure of controversy. Mother Superior Agnes-Mariam of the Cross has thrust herself into the role of go-between and publicist — arranging ceasefires, organizing pro-government media trips and conducting speaking tours as perhaps the country’s most prominent critic of the uprising against President Bashar al Assad. She is so despised by the opposition even acts of seeming good will are criticized, such as arranging a rare truce that allowed thousands to leave a blockaded town. The nun insists she is not an Assad propagandist, describing his family’s decades-long rule as a “tumor,” but she saves her harshest criticism for the rebels…

U.S. bishops speak against illegal demolitions in Jerusalem (Fides) United States bishops have written in protest of the demolition of a house owned by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in late October. In a 26 November letter to Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer, Bishop Richard E. Pates, speaking on behalf of the U.S.C.C.B., asked the diplomat to convey to the Israeli government their “strong objections.” In early November, Fouad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, had visited the site of the demolition and described the occurrence as “an act of vandalism that violates international law…”

Palestinian activism evolves in Prawer protests (Al Monitor) Nonpartisan Palestinian youths have taken the lead in nationwide protests against Israel’s Prawer Plan — which seeks to move a sizable population of Negev Bedouin from its land and resettle it elsewhere — breaking away from traditional Palestinian political forces. These protests raise a number of questions about the organizational framework and courses of action currently available to Palestinians. These include the identity of the factions that could actually take the lead on the Palestinian arena, whether the situation is expected to escalate to a third intifada and how coordination was achieved over such a multifaceted issue…

Government supporters stage counterprotest in Ukraine (New York Times) Pro-government demonstrators deployed a new tactic on Friday to counter protests in favor of European integration, marching through the capital, Kiev, to oppose homosexuality, which they said would accompany a greater European Union role in Ukrainian affairs. Carrying religious icons and singing hymns, the group of about a thousand Orthodox Christian supporters of President Viktor F. Yanukovich filed out of a monastery and marched to a city park. Marchers said they favored allegiance with Russia rather than Europe because Russia more closely matches the cultural and religious heritage of Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union. The protesters set off from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, a monastery controlled by the Moscow Patriarchate, which is subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church and is one of three denominations of Eastern Orthodoxy in Ukraine. The Kievan Patriarchate of Ukraine, in contrast, has supported the pro-European demonstrators and has allowed many to sleep in churches…



Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Africa Palestinians U.S.C.C.B.

5 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Protesters receive medical assistance in St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, on 1 December. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has condemned police violence against “peaceful demonstrations” after President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision not to seek closer ties with the European Union. (photo: CNS/Stoyan Nenov, Reuters)

Kiev protesters see potent ally under a spire (New York Times) After riot police officers stormed Independence Square here early Saturday, spraying tear gas, throwing stun grenades and swinging truncheons, dozens of young protesters ran, terrified, scattering up the streets. It was after 4:30 a.m., the air cold, the sky black. As they got their bearings, the half-lit bell tower of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery beckoned. Inside, the fleeing demonstrators found more than warmth and safety. They had arrived in a bastion of the Kievan Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, where they were welcomed not only on a humanitarian basis but because the church, driven by its own historical tensions with Moscow, is actively supporting their uprising. It strongly favors European integration to enable Ukraine to break free from Russia’s grip, and has joined the calls to oust the Ukrainian government…

Torched Syrian camp in Lebanon illustrates tension between refugees, residents (Washington Post) The wood-framed tents on this muddy field in the Bekaa Valley have burned to ground, leaving only remnants of the lives of the Syrian refugees and migrant workers who occupied them: shoes, scattered tomatoes, a pink plastic comb and metal latrines provided by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Local villagers torched the tents amid allegations that the some residents of the camp had sexually molested a mentally disabled young man. The ousted Syrians say that claim was fabricated at the behest of a new landowner who wanted to evict them from the site. Because of political and sectarian sensitivities, Lebanon did not establish its first official refugee transit camp until last month. That camp has 70 tents. The vast majority of those fleeing the violence have found themselves dependent on private landowners for shelter…

Conflicting statements on the issue of the Maalula sisters (Fides) After the occupation of Maaloula by rebel militias, government sources have written that rebels had kidnapped nuns and orphans present in the monastery. On Wednesday, the pro-government daily newspaper Al Watan claimed that the kidnappers were planning to use the abducted nuns as human shields. On the opposite side, rebel sources widely mentioned by Al Arabiya television channel released the version that snipers loyal to the regime had tried to block attempts to evacuate the nuns to ensure their safety…

Egypt’s Coptic pope: Participation in referendum ‘a duty’ (World Bulletin) Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has urged Egyptians to vote in an upcoming referendum on Egypt’s amended constitution, describing it as a duty. “Participation in the referendum is a must,” Pope Tawadros said during his weekly sermon at Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mark on Wednesday. The referendum represents a central pillar of an army-imposed roadmap for political transition, unveiled by the military in the wake of Muhammad Morsi’s 3 July ouster…

Pope seeks meeting with man who murdered a nun (Times of India) Pope Francis has expressed his desire to meet Samundar Singh, a man who brutally murdered Sister Rani Maria, a Catholic nun, in broad daylight while travelling on a bus in Madhya Pradesh 18 years ago. She was stabbed 54 times before being dragged out of the bus and left to die on the roadside in front for several passengers. The pope was moved after viewing “The Heart of a Murderer,” a documentary film about the event and how forgiveness has changed Mr. Singh…



Tags: Egypt Lebanon Ukraine Refugees Ukrainian Orthodox Church

4 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this September photo, Syrian refugee Fatima Said poses for a photo in her room in Kilis, Turkey. Said shares the room in the Turkish border town with her daughter and grandsons. (photo: CNS/Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)

Syrian refugees in Istanbul sent from pillar to post (Al Monitor) In mid-September, a Turkish human rights organization issued a report estimating the number of Syrian refugees in Istanbul at 100,000, though it is claimed to be “well over 200,000” today. Now, as winter sets in, these displaced families struggle to find work and shelter…

Chaldean Church urges political participation among Iraqi Christians (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans has issued an invitation to its faithful to register to vote in the upcoming legislative elections, scheduled for 30 April. “Participation in the parliamentary elections,” reads the statement, “is a national and moral responsibility.” The patriarchate also encouraged Christians to consider candidacy…

Pope calls for prayer for nuns kidnapped in Syria (Vatican Radio) At the end of his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis called on everyone to pray for a group of nuns taken by force from the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Tekla in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula in Syria. “Let us pray for these sisters, and for all those who have been kidnapped on account of the ongoing conflict. Let us continue to pray and to work for peace…”

Greek Orthodox patriarch urges release of Maaloula sisters (International Business Times) Syria’s Greek Orthodox patriarch has urged Syrian rebels to release a group of nuns who taken hostage from a convent in the predominantly Christian town of Maaloula. “We appeal to the seed of conscience that God planted in all humans, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters safely,” Patriarch Youhanna X said. The church leader reported that orphans who were in the foster care of the sisters had also been taken hostage…

Ukraine protests persist as bid to oust government fails (New York Times) Refusing to grant a central demand of protesters who have laid siege to public buildings and occupied a landmark plaza in this rattled capital, the Ukrainian Parliament on Tuesday defeated a measure calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his government. The failure of the no-confidence vote pushed the battle for the future of Ukraine back onto the streets, where demonstrators and allied political opposition leaders say they would not relent until they succeeded in removing the government, including President Viktor F. Yanukovich…

Senior Hezbollah leader killed in Beirut (Al Jazeera) A senior commander of Shiite Lebanese armed group Hezbollah was killed outside his house in Beirut late Tuesday night. An Israeli official denied Hezbollah’s accusations of being behind the assasination. Lebanese security officials told the Associated Press that assailants opened fire on Hassan al Laqis with an assault rifle while he was in his car, parked at the residential building where he lived, some two miles southwest of the capital…



Tags: Syria Refugees Violence against Christians Turkey Chaldean Church

3 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Greek Orthodox nun in Maaloula’s Monastery of St. Tekla prays beside an icon of the site’s patron saint. It was recently reported that an Islamist group has taken 12 sisters from this monastery hostage. As you keep them in your prayers, click here to read more about this imperiled religious community. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Patriarch Gregory III prays for the ‘true martyrs in Maaloula’ (Fides) “We are determined to remain in this blessed land even at the cost of martyrdom and martyrdom of blood. This has already happened to some of our faithful, such as the three men from Maaloula,” said Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III, referring to those killed in recent sectarian violence. “They are true martyrs killed for refusing to renounce their faith.” The patriarch expressed strong concern regarding the new invasion of the Christian village of Maalula by armed Islamist groups, who terrorized the population and took hostage 12 Orthodox nuns in the Monastery of St. Tekla…

Syrian aircraft kill 50 in northern rebel town (Washington Post) Syrian government helicopters dropped barrels full of explosives on a rebel-held town near the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least 50 people in two separate attacks over the weekend, activists said Sunday. The shelling Sunday hit near a bakery in the town of Al Bab, located east of Aleppo, killing at least 24 people, said Rami Abdurrahman of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Akram al Halabi, a rebel spokesman based in nearby in Aleppo…

Survey: Corruption worsens in world’s conflict areas (Los Angeles Times) Some of the world’s most tumultuous countries suffered setbacks this year in the fight against corruption, with civil war-torn Syria among the pack of nations increasingly at the mercy of bribe-takers and influence-peddlers, Transparency International reported Tuesday in its annual corruption survey. The assessments of public-sector corruption for each country are based on review of independent experts from 112 institutions, Transparency International explained in its report on methodology…

Caritas to launch global wave of prayer to end hunger (Caritas) The Caritas confederation will launch a global “wave of prayer” to promote an end to world hunger on 10 December, to mark the beginning of a new anti-hunger campaign. Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, says the problem is not one of production. “There is enough food to feed the planet," he says, adding that with enough support, it could be possible to end hunger as soon as 2025. Pope Francis also offers his blessing and support to the campaign in a five-minute video message to be released on the day of the launch…

Egypt constitution amendments enshrine military power (Al Jazeera) Extensive amendments to the constitution adopted under Egypt’s ousted president give the military more privileges, enshrining its place as the nation’s most powerful institution and source of real power while removing parts that liberals feared set the stage for the creation of an Islamic state. One key clause states that for the next two presidential terms the armed forces will enjoy the exclusive right of naming the defense minister, an arrangement that gives the military autonomy above any civilian oversight and leaves the power of the president uncertain. The charter does not say how the post will be filled following that eight-year transitional period…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Hunger

2 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this late-October photo, a Palestinian migrant from Syria whose daughter drowned throws flowers into the sea during a commemorative service at Valletta’s Grand Harbor in Malta. (photo: CNS/Darrin Zammit Lupi, Reuters)

Out of Syria, into a European maze (New York Times) The Syrian exodus has become one of the gravest global refugee crises of recent decades. More than two million people have fled Syria’s civil war, most resettling in neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. But since this summer, refugees have also started pouring into Europe in what became for many weeks a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Over five months, Italy’s Coast Guard rescued thousands of Syrians, even as hundreds of other migrants, including many Syrians, died in two major shipwrecks in October. For many, reaching Europe was merely the beginning of another difficult journey. Having risked their lives in hopes of settling in prospering Northern Europe, many Syrians found themselves trapped in the south, living illegally in Italy, hiding from the police, as they tried to sneak past border guards and travel north to apply for asylum…

Pope Francis welcomes Melkite Greek Catholic pilgrims (Vatican Radio) On Saturday, Pope Francis received a group of Melkite Greek Catholics visiting Rome on a pilgrimage. The pope told the pilgrims that his thoughts are with the suffering in Syria, and that his prayers are with those who have lost their lives and their loved ones. “We firmly believe in the strength of prayer and reconciliation”, he said, “and we renew our heartfelt appeal to those responsible” to bring an end to the violence. “Through dialogue let them find just and lasting solutions to a conflict that has already wrought too much destruction…”

Netanyahu holds first meeting with Pope Francis (Jerusalem Post) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Pope Francis in a 25-minute closed-door meeting Monday, with a host of political and religious issues on the agenda as well as a formal invitation for the pontiff to visit the Holy Land next year. It was the first time the two leaders met face to face, and they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian civil war, the welfare of Christians in Israel, as well as the pope’s expected visit to Israel…

West Bank violence jumps, but this time it’s more personal (Washington Post) A retired Israeli military officer was beaten to death with a pickax in his front yard. A Palestinian man was fatally shot after ramming his tractor into an Israeli army gate. These and other enigmatic, seemingly unrelated killings, all originating in the West Bank, have left four Israelis and at least 24 Palestinians dead this year — a notable increase from last year. The jump in violence follows the relative calm of 2012, which was one of the least-deadly years in decades for Israelis. It comes as stalled peace talks give rise to concerns about more killings to come…

20 arrested in Minya after deadly violence (Daily News Egypt) Security forces have arrested 20 people in the governorate of Minya after deadly violence in several villages left five people dead and dozens injured. The Security Directorate of Minya announced arrests in two neighboring villages, the predominantly Coptic Nazlet Ebeid and the predominantly Muslim Al Hawarta. A feud over a piece of land between residents turned violent last week and left four people dead…

Patriarch Kirill concerned about exodus of Christians from Iraq (Voice of Russia) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill expressed his concern for the Christian population of Iraq during a meeting with the Iraqi ambassador to Russia. “We are deeply convinced that Iraq should remain a unified state, civil accord should be restored and there should be no outside influence,” he said…

Ukrainian protesters find refuge from police in Kiev monastery (Reuters) Around 100 Ukrainian pro-European Union protesters took refuge from police batons and biting cold on Saturday inside the walls of a central Kiev monastery. With a barricade of benches pushed up against a gate to keep police out, protesters — who had rallied against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to reject a pact with the European Union — checked their wounds in the pre-dawn light. “They gave us tea to warm us up, told us to keep our spirits strong and told us not to fight evil with evil,” said Roman Tsado, 25, a native of Kiev, who said police beat him on his legs as they cleared the pro-E.U. rally. “I don’t go to church much, only to escape from the powers of evil,” said Tsado, laughing. According to RISU, Ukrainian church leaders — including Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Kievan Patriarchate — have condemned the brutal police response to protesters…

Cardinal Gracias celebrates the start of Advent among Dharavi’s poor (AsiaNews) Together with Caritas India, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, has launched a Christmas campaign to raise awareness of the city’s poor. The initiative was launched with a visit to the largest slum in India and Asia, home to hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. The cardinal recalled Pope Francis, who “praised the courage of the poor, urging society to welcome them with love and compassion…”



Tags: India Egypt Ukraine Refugees Israeli-Palestinian conflict

27 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from late September, Syrian refugees stand outside in Beirut with papers to present to officials with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for registration. (photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters)

Pontifical conference focuses on Syrian refugee children in Lebanon (VIS) This morning, in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the Healthcare Mission for Syrian Child Refugees in Lebanon, promoted by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital and Caritas Lebanon. “Helping the Syrian population, regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief, is the most direct way of contributing to peace-building and the edification of a society open to all its different members,” said Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. Cardinal Sarah explained that Pope Francis’ words inspired this project, in the hope that “these tragedies may never be repeated…”

Pax Christi International: Europe must not close its doors to Syrian refugees (Fides) In an urgent appeal to the leaders of both sides of the conflict, Pax Christi International asks that the borders remain open, that humanitarian relief may reach the besieged population unhindered. Pax Christi International calls on the urgent need for a ceasefire to ensure humanitarian access to the besieged areas before the negotiations begin…

Syrian women increasingly targeted by violence (Al Jazeera) Syrian women are increasingly targeted with violence and sexual assault by armed groups in the civil war between rebel groups and the government of President Bashar al Assad, according to a new report. The Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network, a network of more than 80 human rights organizations in more than 30 countries in Europe and the Mediterranean, released a report on Monday detailing the violence experienced by Syrian women in 2012 and 2013, based on firsthand testimonies or accounts from their families or aid workers…

Polio spreads to Damascus and Aleppo (Al Jazeera) The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that additional polio cases had been confirmed in two new areas of Syria, including near Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo near Turkey. “In addition to 15 polio cases in Deir Ezzor province, Syria, two additional cases have been confirmed, one each in rural Damascus and Aleppo,” the organization said on its Twitter account…

Pope invites Ukrainian Greek Catholic faithful to brotherly communion (VIS) At the end of the catechesis at today’s general audience, the Holy Father greeted Ukrainian pilgrims, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and the bishops and faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Eastern Catholic pilgrims came to Rome to venerate the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul at the end of the Year of Faith, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the translation of the relics of St. Josaphat to St. Peter’s Basilica. For this reason, the reading preceding the catechesis was given in Ukrainian. “The example of St. Josaphat, who gave his life for the Lord Jesus and for the unity of the Church, represents for all of us an invitation to commit ourselves every day to communion with our brothers,” said Pope Francis…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Refugees Syrian Civil War Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

26 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




More than 10 percent of those killed in the Syrian conflict were children. In this video, children are describing life in Jobar, a district of Damascus. Suddenly, a shell hits the area. Stefanie Dekker reports. (video: Al Jazeera)

Pope receives President Putin: An end to the violence in Syria is urgent (VIS) Yesterday afternoon Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, was received in audience by Pope Francis. President Putin subsequently went on to meet with the secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by the secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti. During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good existing bilateral relations, and the parties focused on various questions of common interest, especially in relation to the life of the Catholic community in Russia. Furthermore, special attention was paid to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and the grave situation in Syria…

Proposals seek to preserve Christian demographic balance in parts of Iraq (Fides) A recent conference focusing on the demographic balance of historically Christian areas of Iraq concluded with the proposal of a package of concrete demands to address this emergency. In particular, the organization calls for the creation of a joint committee to develop and implement measures designed to encourage the return of native Christian families who left the region and to protect the Christians in the area of Mosul, still exposed to bullying and targeted violence…

Catholic Church official in Egypt urges Christians to remain in country (Catholic Sentinel) Egypt’s Christians should stay in their country and help it progress instead of taking “the easy way” of emigrating abroad, said a senior member of the country’s Catholic Church. The Rev. Rafic Greiche, head of the Catholic Church press office in Egypt, expressed concern to Catholic News Service on 20 November that hundreds of thousands of Christians have left for other countries since 2011, when a popular revolution ended the nearly 30-year secular rule of former autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak…

Egypt police fire water cannons on protesters testing new law (Los Angeles Times) Egypt’s tough new anti-protest law got its first major test Tuesday when dozens of demonstrators gathered in the capital to protest harsh police tactics — and were met with drenching water-cannon blasts. The anti-protest measure, which took effect Sunday, forbids spontaneous street demonstrations, which have been a prominent feature of public life here since the enormous 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, the autocratic longtime president…

Bkerke denies patriarch resigning from Maronite church (Daily Star Lebanon) Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai does not plan to quit his post, a church representative said Tuesday. Bkerke, the seat of the Maronite Church, dismissed allegations that its patriarch will resign in order to head the Vatican Synod in the Middle East following rumors that Pope Francis denied renewal of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri’s term…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Iraqi Christians Egypt's Christians

25 November 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




More than four months have passed since the death of Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan Kiril of Varna and Veliki Preslav, and the matter of his permanent successor has yet to be settled. A memorial service, pictured above, was held on 5 October. (photo: Bulgarian Orthodox Church)

Bulgarian Orthodox Church cancels Varna metropolitan election (Novinite) The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has decided to cancel the first round of the vote for metropolitan bishop of Varna and Veliki Preslav. The decision comes after representatives of both clergy and laity said they have grounds to believe that the election was rigged…

Pope Francis greets Ukrainian pilgrims (Vatican Radio) On Monday, Pope Francis greeted Ukrainian pilgrims celebrating the 50th anniversary of the transition of the relics of St. Josaphat to St. Peter’s Basilica. The delegation was led by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. St. Josaphat was a Ukrainian monk who later became an archbishop. He was martyred in 1623. “May the memory of this holy martyr speak of the communion of saints, the communion of life between all those who belong to Christ,” said Pope Francis…

Putin to meet Pope Francis as church relations warm (Moscow Times) President Vladimir Putin met with Pope Francis at the Vatican today as part of his state visit to Italy, an encounter many hope helped to improve relations between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches. Since the election of Pope Francis to head the Vatican in March, there have been signs that the two churches are eager to ease the tensions that have dominated their relations in recent decades and that date back all the way to the Great Schism of 1054…

Egyptians unite to repair houses of worship (Eurasia Review) Over the past four months, about 70 Coptic churches have been attacked and burned, according to government statistics. A number of mosques also have been attacked, mainly following the dispersal of the Rabea al Adawiyah and al Nahda sit-ins in August. This prompted Beit al Aela al Misriyah, a nongovernmental organisation, to launch an initiative to renovate houses of worship damaged in recent acts of violence with support from the government, Al Azhar, the Coptic Church and private individuals and businesses. The initiative, launched on 31 October, aims to promote tolerance and encourages all Egyptians to help repair damaged houses of worship, the organization said…

Coptic Orthodox representative protests constitution committee (Egypt Independent) Coptic Orthodox Bishop Paula of Tanta, representing his church within the 50-member committee tasked with amending the constitution, has threatened to withdraw for a second time — in protest against the drafting process. “Article 219 was the reason for quitting the Constitutional Assembly in 2012. It is going to be the reason also for quitting the 50-member committee in 2013,” he said…

Egypt law aims to curb protest (Christian Science Monitor) Egypt’s interim president issued a new law regulating protests that has been heavily criticized by rights groups for being overly restrictive, including allowing police to ban demonstrations without justification. The law is one of several recently proposed by the government that would give authorities broad discretion to shut down dissent, leading to charges that interim military-backed government is seeking to clamp down on freedoms. While the final law is not yet published, an earlier draft of the protest law would require those organizing demonstrations — or even open meetings with more than 10 people — to seek police approval three working days before, and would give police carte blanche to deny approval…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Pilgrimage/pilgrims Coptic Orthodox Church Bulgarian Orthodox Church





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