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Volume 44, Number 1
  
2 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro





Copts back army but reject violence (The Tablet) Egypt’s Coptic Church hailed mass demonstrations last weekend to back an army and police campaign against “terrorism,” but expressed sorrow after dozens of supporters of the country’s deposed Islamist president were killed in a crackdown by security forces. A recent statement from Pope Tawadros II on Twitter declared, “the life of every Egyptian is precious,” and offered prayers for the dead and wounded — an apparent reference to those slain on Saturday during a demonstration in support of Muhammad Morsi…

The Pope signs message for end of Ramadan (AsiaNews) Pope Francis has sent a message “to Muslims around the world” to mark the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. His greeting focuses on the promotion of “mutual respect always, not only in the presence of the other” and states that “dialogue and cooperation among believers, in particular between Christians and Muslims … must always be reinforced.” The theme of respect through education is emphasized throughout the missive…

A small ‘World Youth Day’ in Aleppo (Fides) On Sunday, 28 July, about 850 young Christians belonging to the various Christian communities of Syria gathered at the Youth Center George and Matilda Salem, run by the Salesian Fathers in the district of Al Sabeel, where they shared a day of reflection, prayer, discussion and entertainment. Four Catholic bishops took part in the day, celebrating Mass and dividing the tasks in the various moments of reflection and prayer. Everything ended with the consecration of the young people of Syria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Armenian Catholic Bishop Boutros Marayati describes his emotion and shared experience with the young people of Aleppo to Fides Agency: “I was amazed to see so many young people without fear, in a city scarred by war…”

Syrian Archbishop: Assad is staying (The Arab American News) Archbishop Louka al Khouri, patriarchal auxiliary of the Syrian Orthodox Church, believes that the Syrian regime will not fall and President Bashar al Assad will stay in power. Khouri criticized rebel groups, saying that those who love their country would more likely work towards its stability and prosperity, rather than destroy Syria. Though the solution may lie in dialogue, “the armed opposition has nothing to talk about,” he said. “They work for a foreign agenda and refuse the negotiations. They take money and hire mercenaries to kill people and bring murderers from all over the world…”

Indian migrants in Holy Land prepare for Marian feast (EWTN) Preparations for the Feast of the Nativity of Mary this September are already underway in the Holy Land, particularly among Indian migrant workers. “Mother Mary is revered with great devotion by the Indian community as a mother and a spiritual figure of maternal protection,” said the Rev. Jayaseellan Pitchaimuthu, O.F.M., head of the Indian Chaplaincy in Holy Land. The friar explained that the Marian feast day is particularly important in the Indian context because of its relation to other faiths. Members of other religions, including Hindus and Muslims, hold Marian devotions in high esteem, said Father Jayaseellan…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Indian Christians Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II Ramadan

1 August 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this photo from our Spring 2013 edition, mourners gather in Cairo’s Cathedral of St. Mark for the funeral liturgy of a Copt killed by troops during a protest march. (photo: David Degner)

Christians fear violence in Egypt (Vatican Radio) Supporters of Egypt’s ousted president Muhammad Morsi continued to hold protests in Cairo on Thursday despite warnings from the country’s interim government. Vatican Radio spoke with the Rev. Rafic Greiche, head of the press office of the Egyptian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, about the latest developments in Egypt. “[Muslim Brotherhood militias] throw Molotovs on the people and sometimes on the churches, they write on the churches very bad words concerning the Pope Tawadros II, also concerning the army. They come to the priests [and call them] traitors. … It is a climate of violence,” said Father Greiche, “and the people are scared…”

Coptic Catholic bishop: Islamists scapegoating Egyptian Christians (Fides) Islamists “emphasize the role of Christians in that uprising also to justify the terrorist attacks being prepared against them,” says Coptic Catholic Bishop Boutros Fahim Awad Hanna. In past days, blogs associated with the Muslim Brotherhood have labeled the interim government following the overthrow of President Muhammad Morsi as the “Military Republic of Tawadros,” indicating Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II and his church as the true architects of the popular uprising which led to the end of the Islamist government. “It is obvious that the Muslim Brotherhood wants to explain their political failure by resorting to the theory of ‘Christian conspiracy,’ ” Bishop Boutros says…

Chaldean seminary opens to other Catholic seminarians (Fides) The Chaldean Patriarchal Seminary in Iraq has begun to accept candidates for priesthood belonging to other Catholic churches, starting with the Syrian Catholic Church. The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans recently issued a statement announcing this decision, rendered during a 24 July working meeting held at the Patriarchal Curia in Baghdad and presided over by Patriarch Louis Raphael…

Ukrainian Catholic Church leader says priests should not be involved in politics (RISU) Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church spoke recently about why priests should not be involved in politics, the importance of freedom of the church from the government and the need to change the stereotypical notion of power. “The church … must preserve its freedom, otherwise it will become as discredited as the government structures are today,” the church head warns…

Why Lebanon’s Sunnis will stay calm as Syria’s Sunnis wage war (Christian Science Monitor) Once the dominant Islamic sect in Lebanon, over the past two decades the Sunni community has been gradually overshadowed by the political and financial empowerment of the Shiites, led by the powerful Hezbollah. Many Sunnis complain that Hezbollah has infiltrated the apparatus of the Lebanese state, dominating the government and wielding influence over the Lebanese army, deepening their sense of marginalization and victimization. But while outbreaks of further violence are inevitable, a descent into all-out civil war similar to the conflict roiling Syria or the one that blighted Lebanon between 1975 and 1990 is unlikely. Beyond a few cells of radical militants, Lebanese Sunnis are unorganized militarily, and stand little chance in a head-on battle against Hezbollah. And the mainstream moderate leadership, represented by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, has rejected violence as a solution…



Tags: Egypt Lebanon Chaldean Church Copts Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk

31 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Residents rummage through the damage and debris left of their homes for their belongings after what activists said was an air attack from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al Assad in Aleppo on 27 July. (photo: CNS/Hamid Khatib, Reuters)

Why fewer ground reports are emerging from Syria (Christian Science Monitor) Many journalists are swearing off crossing the border into Syria, owing less to the threat of violence than the risk of kidnapping. Working in Syria during the war has always been dangerous. Since March 2011, the conflict has claimed the lives of at least 24 journalists and 60 citizen journalists. But for those working inside, there were ways to limit exposure to violence and there was relative comfort in knowing that they could trust those around them. In opposition-controlled areas, Syrians wanted the outside world to hear their story and many locals went to great lengths to protect and welcome foreign reporters. Nearly two and a half years into the war, circumstances have changed…

Pope voices concern over priest missing in Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) Pope Francis voiced concern on Wednesday over the fate of an Italian Jesuit priest missing in Syria. “I am thinking of Father Paolo [Dall’Oglio],” the pope, a fellow Jesuit, said at a Mass for members of the order. There have been conflicting reports this week about the fate of Father Dall’Oglio, a priest known for opposing the Syrian regime, with some activists saying they feared he had been kidnapped. But a Catholic charity working in the region, Aid to the Church in Need, said he had gone to meet members of Al Qaeda to demand the release of a captive…

Russian Orthodox Church to give $1 million to Syrian residents (Zee News) The Russian Orthodox Church is preparing to give over $1.3 million to residents of Syrian cities, said Vasily Rulinsky, spokesman of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry. “At the end of June Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia urged believers to help those who fall victims of the armed conflict in Syria. Funds, which were collected by the Russian Orthodox Church eparchies, are being sent to the accounts of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry. Then the funds will be handed over to Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch and All the East, as well as to Supreme Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun of Syria…”

Push for Islamic law in Iraqi Kurdistan stirs controversy (AINA) As religious parties in the Kurdistan Region push for Sharia in the autonomous Iraqi enclave, rights groups warn that this move could curtail freedoms. Opposition Islamic parties in the Kurdistan Region have been pushing for implementation of Article 6 of the enclave’s draft constitution, which states that Sharia is the source of all legislation. Islamic opposition parties have consistently opposed the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s attempts to secularize the constitution, in a country with a predominantly Muslim population but with small Christian and other non-Muslim communities…

Ancient Coptic icons seized at Cairo airport (Egypt Independent) Customs officers at Cairo airport have seized three ancient Coptic icons that someone attempted to smuggle to the United States. Customs chief Mohamed al Shahat said that personnel were suspicious of a parcel that was being shipped to the United States. “We found three ancient Coptic icons in it,” he said. The icons were confiscated and sent to the Ministry of Antiquities…



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Russian Orthodox Church Icons

30 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro






In this video, dated 29 July, Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio is seen addressing a crowd in Raqqa, Syria. His subsequent whereabouts are unknown, with reports suggesting either he has been kidnapped or has become involved in negotiations to release a television crew held hostage. (video: U.F.S.S. Raqqa)

Syria: Jesuit Father Dall’Oglio’s whereabouts uncertain (ANSA) A video posted on Youtube shows Father Paolo Dall’Oglio at an Armenian church in Raqqa, in northern Syria, speaking to a crowd of applauding youths. The priest states that Raqqa, a city home to Kurds and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, should become the symbol of the liberation of Syria. Various reports state that Dall’Oglio had an appointment in Raqqa with the jihadists to mediate for the release of a crew of Syrian journalists and technicians taken hostage a few days ago in the Aleppo region. The first attempt reportedly fell through, while in the second the priest was picked up and taken away. At this point in the story the versions diverge; some say he was taken hostage and other say he is involved in negotiations…

Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate issues statement on kidnapped bishops (Marthoman TV) On Monday, 22 April 2013, Aleppo Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Aleppo Metropolitan Paul of the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped at the hands of an unknown group near the Turkish-Syrian border between Aleppo and Antioch. The two sister churches have publicly and in private and continue today to exert every effort at local, regional and global levels. These efforts concentrated on all types of communication as the two churches pursued every opportunity that was proposed by the loving friends and left no stone unturned to secure their release which to date has not eventuated…

Israelis and Palestinians open talks (Al Jazeera) Israelis and Palestinians have resumed direct talks for the first time in three years, with the United States urging negotiators to make tough compromises to reach a peace deal. The last direct talks collapsed in September 2010 amid continued Israeli settlement building. Israel and the Palestinians remain deeply divided over so-called “final status issues.” These include the fate of Jerusalem — claimed by both as a capital — the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the fate of dozens of Jewish settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank. As a first step, Israel said Sunday it would release 104 Palestinians imprisoned before the 1993 Oslo accords…

Religious proselytism in refugee camps: the Catholic Church stands off (Fides) Christians linked to evangelical groups were filmed distributing gospels and leaflets concerning spiritual reflection in the refugee camp in Zaatari, the main camp for the reception of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war present on Jordanian territory. The movie, on the internet, continues to provoke controversy. “You cannot bring provision and take advantage of that situation to distribute the Gospels,” says Archbishop Maroun Lahham, patriarchal vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. “In that way you are exploiting humanitarian initiatives to achieve forms of proselytism that have nothing to do with the dynamics of authentic Christian witness…”

Syrian rebels to form government late August, says chief (Daily Star Lebanon) The Syrian opposition will form a provisional government in the second half of August after months of failed efforts, Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba said on Tuesday. “I expect a government in exile to be formed around 10 days after Eid al Fitr,” the Muslim feast that falls on 8 or 9 August, he told AFP in Doha. “There are several candidates” for the post of prime minister, he added, saying one “will be chosen by consensus or through election.” The opposition has struggled to put forward a united front during the country’s more than two years of conflict. The last attempt to form a provisional government collapsed earlier in July when rebel Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto resigned after nearly four months of failed efforts…



Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War Middle East Peace Process Refugee Camps human trafficking

29 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate, meets with Metropolitan Volodymyr, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate. To learn more about the status and history of this church, read see the Profile that appeared in the May 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate)

Patriarch: Unification of Ukrainian Orthodox churches not far off (Interfax) Patriarch Filaret noted that there are two distinctive features in the celebration of the 1,025th anniversary of the Christianization of the Kiev Rus — in particular, the fact that the state and the church celebrate the holiday together, and that all Ukrainian churches celebrate it together. He again expressed confidence that the unification of Ukrainian Orthodox churches into in a single local church is not far off…

Attack on Minya churches repelled by residents, security forces (Daily News Egypt) Residents protected Al Azraa and Anba Ebram churches from attacks by alleged Morsi supporters in Minya on Saturday, spokesperson of the archbishop of Mawas monastery Amgad Ezzat has told state-owned MENA agency. “They threw Molotov cocktails at Al Azraa and Anba Ebram churches but were not able to break in as nearby Muslims and Christians were securing the churches,” said Ishak Ibrahim, researcher at Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). He added that the protesters tried to storm in Al Eslah church but were prevented. “However, both Al Eslah church and an annex of the Catholic church were raided before, on 3 July,” he said…

In Egypt, love for Sisi overshadows protester deaths (Christian Science Monitor) The day after at least 74 Islamist protesters were killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces, none of Egypt’s main newspapers on Sunday showed the injured, the dead, or even the vast crowds staging a sit-in against the coup that deposed former President Mohamed Morsi. One newspaper went so far as to blanket the front page with regal photos of Egypt’s military chief, General Abdel Fattah al Sisi, and revered nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser with a headline roughly equivalent to, “Spot on, chief!” The elevation of General Sisi to almost legendary status when well over 200 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in clashes since he led a July 3 coup has raised cries of anguish from a small but vocal segment of Egyptians. They openly wonder how their fellow citizens — including so many who fought for democratic government in the 2011 protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak — have become so deliriously in love with the army, and worry they are blind to the potential for a return to dictatorship…

Rai urges leaders to attend National Dialogue session (Daily Star Lebanon) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai urged rival leaders Sunday to attend National Dialogue sessions to achieve reconciliation, warning that a delay in all-party talks would deepen differences among the Lebanese and increase damage to the country. The patriarch also renewed his call for a new social contract based on the 1943 National Pact aimed at strengthening sectarian coexistence and the equal power-sharing formula between Christians and Muslims…

Millions of Muslims drawn to Marian devotion (AsiaNews) Each year millions of Muslims come on pilgrimage to the Catholic Marian shrines. Not only to the major shrines such as Fatima in Portugal or Harissa in Lebanon, but also to Egypt, Syria and Iran. Muslims — especially Muslim women — go to give thanks to the Madonna or great Christian saints, like St. Charbel or St. George…



Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Christian-Muslim relations Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Ukrainian Orthodox Church

26 July 2013
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2012, then-President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt is flanked by high-ranking military personnel as he address soldiers at a checkpoint in El-Arish.
(photo: CNS /Egyptian Presidency handout via Reuters)


Prosecutors charge Egypt’s Morsi with espionage (Los Angeles Times) Egyptian prosecutors have charged deposed President Mohamed Morsi with espionage and colluding with the militant group Hamas in provocative accusations ahead of rival rallies planned Friday by Islamists and largely secular opposition forces. The charges against Morsi, who has been in army custody since his overthrow on 3 July, are certain to infuriate tens of thousands of his Islamist supporters who have been demonstrating in Cairo and other cities. The accusations come the day after the army warned Islamists to disband their sit-ins or face retaliation...

Orthodox leaders demand end to torture, murder of Christians (ByzCath.org) The heads and representatives of all 15 autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches have issued a joint statement lamenting the persecution of Christians around the world. The leaders have gathered to commemorate the 1025th anniversary of the baptism of Kievan Rus’, the medieval Slavic state that helped give birth to modern Russia and Ukraine. “Every day thousands of believers in Christ are being tortured and driven out of their native lands; many people meet their death,” they said in a statement published by Interfax, a Russian news agency. “News about tortures and murders are coming from Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India...”

Patriarchs meet, urge unity (Sofia News Agency) New Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit has met with Russian Patriarch Kiril in Moscow, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church informs. The Patriarch is leading the Bulgarian delegation which is taking part in the celebrations of the 1025th anniversary of the converting of Russia to Christianity, the so-called “Baptism of Russia.” The delegation will be in Moscow until July 30. The invitation was extended by the Moscow Patriarchy. The two Patriarchs first visited the chapel in the Synod's headquarters in Moscow and then held a talk...

Denver area home to 30,000 from Ethiopia, Eritrea (Denver Post) A bloody, 17-year civil war that began in 1974 drove a mass migration to the United States. Church groups helped at least 2,700 refugees from Ethiopia and Eritrea, the province that split off after the war ended in 1991, resettle in Denver. Others followed to join families, for education, for job opportunities. Today, activists and academics estimate there are more than 30,000 Ethiopians and Eritreans among the seven-county metro area’s nearly 2.9 million people. As a group, Ethiopians have stitched together a vibrant piece of the city’s social and commercial fabric. They own businesses, build ornate churches, send their kids to state colleges and live an American dream...

Pope is most influential, second most-followed world leader on Twitter (CNS) Pope Francis is the most influential world leader on Twitter, with the highest number of retweets worldwide. He also is the second most-followed leader of the world, running behind — albeit by a long stretch — U.S. President Barack Obama. The rankings were released 24 July in a recent study titled “Twiplomacy,” which refers to the use of Twitter by world leaders...



25 July 2013
Greg Kandra




A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he runs to take cover in Aleppo’s Salaheddine neighborhood on 23 July. Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, papal nuncio to the United Nations, criticized the “persistent refusal” of Syria’s warring factions to negotiate an end to the country’s 28-month-long civil war. (photo: CNS/Muzaffar Salman, Reuters)

Holy See: There can be no military solution to Syria (Fides) No more wasting time, exclude any military option, immediately start a negotiation: that is what Archbishop. Francis A. Chullikatt, papal nuncio to the United Nations, asked yesterday during the open debate of the Security Council on the Middle East. The nuncio criticized the “persistent refusal” of Syria’s warring factions to negotiate an end to the country’s 28-month-long civil war, calling on the international community to act quickly to stop the conflict. “There can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict,” he said in his speech...

UN puts death toll in Syria at 100,000 (AP) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday raised the death toll in Syria’s civil war to more than 100,000, up from nearly 93,000 just over a month ago. Ban called on the Syrian government and opposition to halt the violence in the 2 ½ year civil war, saying it is “imperative to have a peace conference in Geneva as soon as possible...”

UK bishops call for peace in Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Catholic and Anglican bishops in England and Wales have met with the Israeli ambassador to Britain, calling for increased efforts to bring lasting peace to the Holy Land. In their meeting with Ambassador Daniel Taub on Wednesday, Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the Catholic Bishops’ department for International Affairs, and Bishop Michael Langrish, who heads the Church of England’s efforts for Midde East peace, said conflict between Israelis and Palestinians “has for far too long been an open wound,” frustrating the aspirations of both communities to live in dignity, peace and security...”

Metropolitan Hilarion: the West is moving to a kind of dictatorship (Interfax) Modern Western states move to absolute dictatorship, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion believes. “Nowadays state sets a principle of secularity, independency from any outside authority that is authorized to point out to violations of morals or rights,” the metropolitan writes in his article published in the Pravoslavnaya Beseda magazine. People are declared the only source of authority in a democratic state, and people should realize this authority through free will of citizens participating in elections and referendums...



24 July 2013
Greg Kandra




This image from last year shows destruction in Homs after clashes between the Syrian army and rebels. (photo: CNS/SANA handout via Reuters)

Red Cross: Syria blocking aid to Homs (Al Jazeera) Syrian authorities are blocking access to the Old City of Homs, where trapped civilians are in dire need of food and medical supplies, the Red Cross said. The International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.), in a statement issued on Wednesday, warned of possible “tragic” consequences if aid does not arrive in Homs soon. The agency revealed last Friday that it was negotiating a humanitarian pause to be able to enter Homs, where President Bashar al Assad’s forces have been conducting a heavy offensive against rebels, with air and artillery strikes…

Lombardi: Pope Francis brings attention to the poor (Vatican Radio) The director of the Holy See Press Office and director general of Vatican Radio, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., has been to World Youth Days under three popes — John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. He said each pope has his own individual style and way of speaking to young people. “We recall the popes of the World Youth Day, obviously. Every one of them has his style, his way of speech, his different relation to the young people,” Father Lombardi said. “At the time of John Paul II, there was the problem of East and West maybe for some of the World Youth Days, then [with Pope Benedict XVI] there was the problem of the digital generation in Madrid and so on. We see now that Pope Francis brings the attention to the urgent needs of the world of today — the poor, hunger, justice, human spiritual development,” he explained…

Celebrations mark 1025th anniversary of Christianity in Russia (Voice of Russia) Today, on 24 July celebrations are starting in Russia that are dedicated to the 1025th anniversary of Christianity in Russia. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill will lead the service in the country’s main cathedral — the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The 1025th birthday of Russian Christianity will be marked by church services and cross processions not only in Russia, but also in Belorussia and Ukraine…



Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Pope Benedict XVI Pope John Paul II World Youth Day

23 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis waves from his popemobile after arriving in Rio de Janeiro on 22 July. (photo: CNS/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters)

Brazil crowds delight Pope Francis, frustrate his guards (Christian Science Monitor) A wrong turn sent a humble Fiat carrying Pope Francis into the thick of a frenzied Rio crowd Monday, in his first minutes back in South America since becoming pontiff. It was a nightmare for security officials, but for the clearly delighted pope just another opportunity to connect. The pope is visiting Brazil on a seven-day visit meant to fan the fervor of the young faithful around the globe. That task has grown more challenging as Roman Catholics stray, even in strongholds of the religion such as Brazil, yet it seemed to come easily to Francis even on the drive from the airport to an official opening ceremony… [The full text of Pope Francis’ arrival speech is available via Vatican Radio.]

In Pictures: Syria’s young refugees (Al Jazeera) Among the Syrian refugees located in camps in Jordan and Lebanon, children face particular hardship. A significant percentage of child fatalities occur while en route to escape the war in Syria. While on this perilous journey, juveniles are often separated from their parents and left to die in the rugged terrain. For such children, life consists of hiding from snipers and shelling, facing extreme weather without shelter, and pursuing desperate measures for nutrition, such as licking moisture from grass…

In Lebanon, more Syrian students than Lebanese expected (Fides) About half of the 6.8 million Syrians in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, both within Syria and across its borders, are school-age children. In September, for the start of the new school year, it is expected that there will be more Syrian refugee students than Lebanese in the public schools. According to the United Nations, the schools are not prepared to accept many refugee children. Compounding the situation is the recruitment of child soldiers…

Monks in Egypt’s lawless Sinai preserve an ancient library (Yahoo! News) Just as they have done for 17 centuries, the Greek Orthodox monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt’s Sinai desert and the local Jabaliya Bedouins worked together to protect the monastery when the 2011 revolution thrust Egypt into a period of uncertainty. Afraid they could be attacked by extremists or bandits in the relatively lawless expanse of desert, the 25 monks put the monastery’s most valuable manuscripts in the building’s storage room. Their Bedouin friends, who live at the base of Saint Catherine’s in a town of the same name, allegedly took up their weapons and guarded the perimeter. The community’s fears of an attack were not realized, but the monks decided they needed a new way to protect their treasured library from any future threats. Last year, they began a program of digitally copying biblical scripts with the help of multispectral imaging specialists from around the world, while simultaneously renovating and modernizing the library itself…

Pope Francis mourns Indian cardinal (Catholic Herald) Indian Cardinal Simon Pimenta, who led the Archdiocese of Bombay for more than 18 years, died on Friday at the age of 93. Sending his condolences to Catholics in Mumbai (as Bombay is now named), Pope Francis remembered the cardinal’s “long years of devoted service to the Catholic community there and his many years of faithful assistance to the successor of Peter as a member of the College of Cardinals.” His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 203 members, 112 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave…



Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Monastery Refugee Camps World Youth Day

22 July 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2011 image, Abbot Mar Christo tends to the vegetable garden in St. George’s Monastery in Syria’s Wadi al Nasarah. Dating back to the sixth century, the monastery is the region’s oldest extant Christian site. For more, see Syria’s Christian Valley, from the January 2011 issue of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)

The plight of Syrian minorities (Counterpunch) As the conflict in Syria rages, the dire reality of religious and ethnic minorities comes to the surface. On July 18, BBC World News featured reportage on the Syrian government shelling of the town of Al Husun, which lies at the foothill of Krak des Chevaliers. The 11th-century Crusader citadel rests magnificently at the top of a massive hill at the heart of a valley in western Homs known as Wadi al Nasarah — “the Christian Valley.” To its southwest nestles the historic Antiochian Orthodox St. George’s Monastery. As early as March 2011, the Christian Valley became the most sought refuge of the people of Homs, regardless of religion or sect. The valley constitutes some 32 villages, of which 27 are inhabited by Christians — mostly Greek Orthodox. Among the remaining five villages, four are mainly Alawites, leaving only Al Husun inhabited largely by Muslim Sunnis. Despite rising sectarian tensions, the people of the Christian Valley, largely peasants who live off their farms, remain hospitable. Many of them host their neighbors who had to flee Homs and, more recently, Aleppo…

What’s become of Syria’s Christian sites? (Huffington Post) As politicians debate the fate of Syria’s Christian minority, reportedly targeted by Muslim fundamentalists for supporting President Bashar al Assad’s regime, the country’s Christian sites seem to have been forgotten in the two-plus-year civil war. “They cut off the head of the statue of Mary (Lady of the Two Worlds) in Syria’s Jisr al Shaghour region,” wrote Rev. Georges Massouh, a Lebanese Greek Orthodox priest, adding that it was still more acceptable than slaughtering human beings. If the attack aimed to terrorize Christians, they will remain in Syria — whose every grain of soil is a witness to its Christianity — and will be martyrs of love, peace, and Christ’s eternal presence in them, he said this week in the daily Annahar. But the ongoing conflict has definitely taken a toll on Christians, their sites, and the language of Christ…

Orthodox delegations arriving in Moscow for commemoration (Voice of Russia) Delegations of the Orthodox churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Romania, and Cyprus arrived in Moscow today to take part in the festivities marking the 1,025 years since the adoption of the Christian faith by Kievan Rus. The delegations from the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Jerusalem and the Orthodox Church of Cyprus are led by the supreme hierarchs of these churches — Patriarch Theophilos III and Archbishop Chrysostomos II, respectively. The events are scheduled to run from 24-29 July…

Orthodox patriarch calls for reopening of Istanbul’s Halki Seminary (Hurriyet Daily News) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew repeated his call to the Turkish government for the reopening of the Heybeliada Halki Seminary, saying that the religion was entering a dangerous phase due to a lack of proper religious officials. Bartholomew was speaking at an iftar event organized by the Istanbul Mufti office, with Mufti Rahmi Yaran present, where the patriarch mentioned the closed Halki Seminary. “We would like to mention at this time the importance of qualified religious officials in the society. Religious officials should always be properly educated and set examples based on their training throughout their life…”

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks’ resumption put in doubt by both sides (BBC) Moves towards a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were mired in rumors, rebuttals, criticism and confusion on Sunday. In a high-profile dismissal of the embryonic process, Israel’s former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, wrote on Facebook that there was “no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at least not in the coming years, and what’s possible and important to do is conflict-management.” Naftali Bennett, economics minister, insisted construction on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would continue, regardless of talks…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Russian Orthodox Church Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I





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