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June, 2018
Volume 44, Number 2
  
7 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis speaks as he leads his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 7 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope appeals for action against human trafficking (Vatican News) Pope Francis has appealed for concerted action against human trafficking as we prepare to mark the Day of Prayer and Awareness against this terrible scourge. “I invite everyone, citizens and institutions, to join forces to prevent the slave trade and to guarantee protection and assistance for the victims” he said during the weekly General Audience in the Vatican…

Israel strikes Damascus complex (BBC) Israeli warplanes have fired missiles at a Syrian military position near the capital, Damascus, Syrian media report. A Syrian military statement said its air defense systems blocked most of the missiles, but gave no further details…

UN warns Gaza it has just 10 days of emergency fuel left (Al Jazeera) The United Nations has warned that Gaza’s emergency fuel supplies will run dry in 10 days unless it receives immediate donor support. In a statement published on Wednesday, officials said $6.5 million was needed to buy generator fuel and stave off the collapse of “critical services…”

Churches accuse Jerusalem mayor of violating agreements on taxes (Haaretz) Church representatives have accused Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat of breaching international treaties after the municipality said it planned to collect 650 million shekels ($186 million) in back taxes owed by churches and international bodies with property in the city…

Pope emeritus Benedict: ‘I am on a pilgrimage towards Home’ (Vatican News) Pope emeritus Benedict has sent a short letter to the editor of the Italian news daily Il Corriere della Sera. The pope emeritus was responding to the many inquiries from readers as to how he is spending “this last period of his life.” Noting the “slow decline” of his “physical strength,” Benedict says: “interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home.” The former pontiff admits that “this last stretch of the road” is “at times difficult,” but says, “It is a great grace for me to be surrounded by a love and goodness that I could not have imagined…”



Tags: Syria Israel Jerusalem Pope Benedict XVI human trafficking

6 February 2018
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2014, the Rev. M.J. Joseph leads a service for Dalits in a mud hut in Utter Pradesh, India. This week, India’s bishops have been urged to reach out and do more for those once known as “untouchables.” (photo: John Mathew)

Indian bishops told to do more for ‘untouchables’ (Crux) Bishops in India have been told the Church must “move away from being content with doling out some schemes and programs” for Dalits — those at the bottom of Hinduism’s caste system formerly known as “untouchables” — and work to develop “a deeper understanding of the causes and manifestations of deprivation, discrimination and exclusion of Dalit Christians within the Church, by the larger society and by the State.” Jesuit Father A. Maria Arul Raja, a professor of Religious Studies at the Jesuit Theology Centre in Chennai, spoke about the Church and Dalits at the biennial meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India taking place this week in Bangalore...

Iraq official: Iraqi security forces are relocating refugees (Andalou Agency) An Iraqi lawmaker has accused security forces of forcibly relocating displaced civilians to their areas in northern and western Iraq. Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Monday, Raad al-Dahlaki, head of a parliamentary committee on displaced civilians, said the Baghdad Operations Command will close a refugee camp in western Baghdad by mid-February...

Syria, Russia escalate attacks in Syria (Al Jazeera) At least 40 people have been killed in Syrian and Russian air attacks in Eastern Ghouta near the capital, Damascus. Syria’s government has also deployed new anti-aircraft missiles to the front lines in Aleppo and Idlib, where it is battling rebel fighters...

Medical centers in Gaza forced to cease work due to lack of electricity, fuel (Middle East Monitor) The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza yesterday announced the suspension of operations in 16 hospitals and healthcare centers across the Gaza Strip due to the sever lack of electricity and fuel, Quds Press reported. Speaking to the news site, Spokesman of the Ministry of Health Ashraf Al-Qidra said: “Electricity generators in three more healthcare centers in Gaza stopped working; therefore, operations were suspended...”

Archaeologists uncover ancient church in Turkey (Christian Today) What’s believed to be one of the earliest churches in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, has been discovered during an archaeological dig in the Black Sea province of Karabük’s Eskipazar district. The excavation at the ancient city of Hadrianapolis, which now lies buried beneath Eskipazar, 160km north of Ankara, has uncovered a 1,500-year-old structure which could unlock secrets to monasteries thought to have existed in the town...

U.S., Ethiopia launch program to preserve historic church (EthioSports.com) U.S. Ambassador Michael RaynorEthi and Minister for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Hirut Woldemariam, jointly launched a new project for the preservation of Bete Golgotha Mikael Church in Lalibela, on Saturday, 3 February 2018. Since 2003, the U.S Embassy has supported the renovation of nine historical heritages throughout Ethiopia, including most recently the restoration of Bete Gabriel Rafael in Lalibela...



5 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, shown in this file photo from 2015, on Sunday encouraged bishops in India to urge the faithful to become fully Indian and Christian. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)

Church in India urges faithful to become fully Indian, Christian (DaijiWorld.com) Inaugurating the 30th Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (C.C.B.I.) of the Latin Church, here on Sunday 4 February, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of Conference of Catholic Bishops of India and archbishop of Mumbai, exhorted the bishops in India to urge the faithful to become fully Indian and fully Christian…

Palestinians slam Jerusalem move to end tax breaks for churches, UN properties (Times of Israel) Palestinians on Sunday strongly denounced an Israeli decision to collect taxes from churches and United Nations agencies in Jerusalem, saying the move was aimed at “emptying” the city of its Arab residents and Christian holy sites…

Ethiopia launches job creation project for refugees, returnees (Ethiopian News Agency) A job creation project, which aims at supporting Ethiopian returnees and Eritrean refugees, was launched by the European Union Trust Fund for Africa and Ethiopian Government. The two-year project benefits 1,500 potential returnees and 200 Eritrean refugees. The project areas in Addis Ababa are Arada, Addis Ketema, Kirkos, and Yeka sub-cities, while the value chain areas are leather construction and metal, it was indicated…

Kurds express shock over ‘mutilated’ female fighter video (Vatican News) In one of the most gruesome episodes of the conflict, Kurds in Syria have accused Turkish-backed rebels of mutilating the body of a female Kurdish fighter, then posting the footage online. The victim, a member of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit — known as YPG — has been identified as Barin Kobani. She took part in a recent operation to drive the so-called Islamic State from areas in northern Syria…

Eagles fans in Jerusalem flying high after Super Bowl win (The Jerusalem Post) As is the tradition, American sports fans congregated at, Mike’s Place, in the heart of the capital, which hosted several hundred diehard sports fans for Super Bowl LII…



2 February 2018
Greg Kandra




A man prays amid destroyed buildings after several airstrikes on 9 January in Hamoria, Syria. The U.S. has accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people.
(photo: CNS/Mohammed Badra, EPA)


U.S. accuses Syria of chemical weapons use (Al Jazeera) The United States has accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people. U.S. State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that reports of chlorine gas being used against civilians in Eastern Ghouta were “very concerning”...

Letter in India calls for the government to stop hate crimes against minorities (Fides) In an open letter, public officials, personalities from Indian culture and intellectuals have expressed “Deep concern for the continuous episodes of senseless violence in the country, especially those that target minorities,” and also “for the weak response of law enforcement agencies and institutions”...

Ethiopia lifts ban on domestic workers moving overseas (AFP) Ethiopia has lifted a ban on domestic workers moving overseas after passing a new law to guard against ill-treatment, a government official said Thursday. Africa’s second-most populous country instituted the ban five years ago following reports of abuse, and complaints that employment agencies lured Ethiopians into working abroad in illegal and appalling conditions...

Middle East Council of Churches appoints acting Secretary General (Fides) The Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches has appointed Professor Souraya Bechealany as Acting Secretary General of the ecumenical body. Souraya Bechealany takes the place of Father Michel Jalkh, who was appointed Rector of Antonine University. The choice, approved unanimously, was announced at the end of the meeting of the Executive Committee hosted in Lebanon by Antonine University, in the district of Baabda in the southern part of Beirut...

Church celebrates World Day of Consecrated Life (Vatican News) Pope Francis celebrates the liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica on Friday with thousands of religious and members of Societies of Apostolic life. The announcement for this event contained the following reflection from the Holy Father: “A vocation is a gift we have received from the Lord, who fixed his gaze on us and called us, calling us to follow him in the consecrated life”...



1 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A Syrian child uses a stainless-steel pot to bale out water from her tent at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Zahle in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley on 26 January 2018.
(photo: Joseph Eid, AFP/Getty Images)


Winter’s tragic toll on Lebanon’s Syrian refugees (Voice of America) Following a few months of relatively mild weather, the recent storm came as a bitter reminder of how harsh winters can be in Lebanon’s highlands. And with some Syrians spending their seventh year in camps, it is proving ever-harder to cope with such conditions...

6900 Syrians win permission to stay in U.S. For now (The New York Times) Nearly 7,000 Syrians who were granted temporary permission to live and work in the United States as a civil war devoured their country will be allowed to stay for at least another 18 months, the Trump administration announced on Wednesday, in an acknowledgment that Syria continues to be rattled by conflict...

Gaza faces ‘unprecedented’ humanitarian crisis (Al Jazeera) Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have entered their 11th year under a crippling siege imposed by Israel and Egypt, and are in dire need of international aid. Gaza Palestinian economic experts are warning that even if help is given immediately, a humanitarian disaster might be unavoidable...

Human Rights Watch slams India’s treatment of minorities (UCANews.com) Civil society groups in India have backed a Human Rights Watch report that condemns the unabated violence that religious minorities suffer at the hands of right-wing Hindu groups. India’s federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has failed to contain rights violations on several fronts, according to the New York-based group’s 2018 World Report. “The government failed to promptly or credibly investigate the attacks, while many senior BJP leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence,” said the Human Rights Watch report...

Reject intolerance, teach respect for other religions, speakers say (CNS) A rigorous defense of religious freedom around the globe must be accompanied by the efforts of religious communities and governments to teach people to respect other faiths and to see diversity within a society as a value, not a threat, said a Vatican cardinal and a top British government official. “The struggle for the affirmation of religious liberty is far from being won,” Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, told an audience at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University on 30 January...

Trip to Syria shows wars can be most dangerous when they’re coming to an end (The Independent) It’s easy to think the war is over. Until mortars from el-Ghouta swish over Damascus and explode in the old Christian area of Bab el-Roma with its grocery shops and restaurants. Six dead. Or when an army officer comes and says quite casually to you: “Remember Captain Walid? He was martyred four days ago.” I’ve always felt uneasy about the word “martyred” — about any soldier, or civilian, anywhere...



31 January 2018
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees arrive at Rome’s Fiumicino airport as part of a program sponsored by the Community of Sant’ Egidio. (photo: Vatican News/Facebook)

Syrian refugees arrive in Rome (Vatican News) A group of Syrian refugees were welcomed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Tuesday as part of a humanitarian corridors program. The initiative is being promoted by the Community of Sant’ Egidio and aided by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior...

Apostolic nuncio speaks on conditions in Ukraine (Vatican News) In the wake of Pope Francis’ visit to a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on Sunday, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti to Ukraine is speaking out about the situation in the eastern European nation...

Lebanon overwhelmed with lingering Syrian refugee crisis (National Catholic Register) As Lebanon enters its seventh year of hosting Syrian refugees, the country is slipping further into an economic and social crisis. About two-thirds the size of Connecticut, with a local population of about 4 million, Lebanon has the highest per capita refugee population in the world. Lebanon has absorbed more than 1 million refugees from neighboring Syria, a figure which refers only to those who are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)...

Hamas leader dies in Gaza (Andalou Agency) Senior Hamas leader Imad al-Alami, who was injured by gunfire earlier this month, passed away in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, a Hamas leader said. In a Twitter post, Bassim Naim confirmed that al-Alami had died, giving no further details. Al-Alami was seriously injured three weeks ago when a bullet reportedly hit his head as he was checking his personal weapon at his home...



Tags: Syria Lebanon Ukraine Refugees Gaza Strip/West Bank

30 January 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
In this image from 17 January, residents walk through the Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp. Many have expressed fears over their future after the U.S. cut aid to the U.N. agency that supports them.
(photo: Joseph Eid, AFP/Getty Images)


Fears in Syrian camp for Palestinian refugees (Reuters) In Burj al-Barajneh camp, Amira Nassar fears for the future after the United States cut aid to the U.N. agency that helps her and many others among the estimated 170,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Sitting in an old people’s center, talk turns to the impact on their healthcare...

Big changes are reshaping Jerusalem (Bloomberg) The number of employed east Jerusalem Arabs is rising, salary gaps with the city’s Jewish population are narrowing, more are learning Hebrew — 6,000 currently study the language in classes — and registration at higher education institutions in the western sector is up. City Hall has established an employment center in east Jerusalem and plans a second one. There are even growing applications for citizenship, said Ben Avrahami, the mayor’s adviser for east Jerusalem affairs. This from a population of permanent residents that can file for social security benefits but doesn’t have the right to vote in national elections...

A journey into Iraqi Kurdistan (The New York Times) The Mar Mattai monastery clings to the side of a steep mountain, and on a clear day a visitor can stand against its fortresslike walls and discern far below the winsome farmlands of Upper Mesopotamia. Here, in the cradle of civilization, the building is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. From this peaceful perch, it is difficult to imagine the horror...

Syrian carpenter rebuilds life in Homs (Xinhua) It wasn’t easy for the 43-year-old Rabea Sahloul to start his life from scratch alone in his shattered neighborhood in Homs city, as his neighbors and friends he grew up with are no longer there. People say that feeling lonely or as a stranger is not only when you lose a home, but when the loved ones are no longer there such as friends and neighbors, those who give life a taste and a meaning...

Man arrested for looting Byzantine-era coins from archaeological sites (The Jerusalem Post) A resident of the Negev’s Beduin village of Bir Hadaj was arrested Sunday for looting more than 150 Byzantine-era coins from numerous nearby archaeological sites, the Antiquities Authority said Monday. According to the Authority’s Robbery Prevention Unit, a call was received Sunday afternoon reporting that an unidentified suspect in his 50’s was walking around the ruins of the city Halutza with a metal detector...



29 January 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis embraces Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, during a meeting with the Ukrainian Catholic community at the Basilica of Santa Sophia in Rome on 28 January. (photo: CNS/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

Pope visits Ukrainian Basilica in Rome (Vatican Radio) On Sunday afternoon Pope Francis paid a visit to the Basilica of Santa Sofia, home to Rome’s Greek Catholic Community of Ukrainians. The Pope exchanged greetings with the Major Archbishop of Kiev, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and in his address the Pontiff recalled the great models of Cardinal Josyp Slipyi, Salesian Ukrainian Bishop Stepan Czmil, and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, former Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine...

Jordan’s King: ‘Jordan will remain a protector of Jerusalem’s shrines’ (The Jordan Times) His Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday met with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Minister Derek Browning, a Royal Court statement said. During the meeting, attended by HRH Prince Ghazi, the King’s special adviser for religious and cultural affairs, the King and the minister stressed the importance of enhancing dialogue, tolerance and co-existence among followers of various religions...

New bishop for Ahmedabad, India (Vatican Radio) The Holy Father, Pope Francis has appointed The Rev. Athanasius Rethna Swamy Swamiadian, the new Bishop for the Diocese of Ahmedabad, India. Currently Father Athanasius was serving as the Rector of Vianney Vihar, the Interdiocesan Major Seminary in Baroda...

Gaza hospital forced to close over power crisis (Andalou Agency) A hospital in the northern Gaza Strip has shut down over an acute power shortage plaguing the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian enclave, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Monday. In a statement, the Ministry said the Beit Hanoun hospital had suspended health services over the shortage. “Patients will be transferred to other governmental hospitals,” it said...

Russian Orthodox leader criticizes bitcoin craze (RT) Bitcoin mania makes people lose their minds and lose everything they have, according to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. “People are losing their minds. Everyone says: What am I waiting for? I have to act, I have to buy these bitcoins. And then they are buying, pawning property, selling their homes. Then, bitcoin collapses within two weeks, and people understand that they did not win anything, but lost, they lost everything they had,” the patriarch said, speaking before Russia’s Federation Council...



26 January 2018
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis offers his prayers Thursday at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Turkey’s Erdogan vows to fight Kurdish forces as far as Iraq (BBC) Turkey is prepared to take its fight against Kurdish forces in northern Syria as far east as Iraq, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said. Speaking in Ankara, Mr Erdogan reiterated that his forces will move against Kurdish-controlled Manbij, which risks confrontation with the US. US troops are based in the city, which was taken from the Islamic State group (ISIS) by Kurdish-led forces in 2016...

Russian Orthodox patriarch urges special status for multi-child families (RT.com) Russian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill has urged senators to provide special status for multi-child families in Russia, questioning why this can’t be done when preferences are being given to sexual minorities in the West. “The Church has supported and will support any positive changes in legislation aimed at maintaining maternity and childhood and, especially, to overcome such a terrible phenomenon as orphanage with living parents,” the Patriarch said during an appearance at the Russia Federal Council on Thursday...

Christians turn down $10 million grant in India (UCANews.com) Christian leaders have rejected an offer from India’s tourism ministry of a US$10 million grant for the facelift and maintenance of churches in the Christian-majority state of Meghalaya. Catholic leaders in the state told ucanews.com on 23 January that they will not apply for or accept the funding of 613 million rupees (US $10 million) for illuminations, landscaping, construction of parking lots and toilets among other infrastructure work at 37 churches...

Pope offers prayers at conclusion of Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (CNS) When different Christian churches recognize the validity of one another’s baptisms, they are recognizing that God’s grace is at work in them, Pope Francis said. “Even when differences separate us, we recognize that we are part of the redeemed people, the same family of brothers and sisters loved by the one Father,” the pope said 25 January an ecumenical evening prayer service closing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity...

Yazidis express gratitude for pope’s support (Vatican Radio) Serhat Ortac, President of the Society of Yazidi Academics was among those representing the Yazidi people during this week’s audience with the Pope. Ortac told Vatican News that a people the Yazidis are very grateful for the Pope’s invitation and they are very thankful for his support. “We hope to stay in contact with the Vatican to maintain the support and the attention of the world” on the fate of persecuted minorities in Iraq and across the globe, he said...

Unsung Catholic heroes of the Holocaust (Vatican Radio) An official at a Catholic Diocese in northern England said there are many hidden Catholic heroes of the Holocaust, the story of whose bravery needs to be brought to light. Simon Caldwell, Communications Officer at the Diocese of Shrewsbury, said these unsung Catholic heroes risked their lives to secretly shelter Jews from the Nazi persecution and some were put to death for their courageous actions. He was speaking to Susy Hodges just ahead of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January that commemorates the more than 6 million people, mostly Jews, who were exterminated by the Nazis during World War II...



Tags: India Iraq Ecumenism Turkey Russian Orthodox

25 January 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
This photograph from December shows Syrian refugees living in the Awde refugee camp in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa province. Lebanon has grown increasingly hostile toward Syrian refugees and politicians have begun saying it’s time for them to leave. (photo: Getty Images)

ISIS fighters detained in camps still pose a threat (The New York Times) American-backed Kurdish militias in northern Syria are detaining hundreds of Islamic State fighters and family members in makeshift camps, raising fears among United States military officials of potentially creating a breeding ground for extremists — repeating a key security mistake of the Iraq war...

Will Lebanon force a million Syrian refugees to return to a war zone? (The Nation) As the crisis dragged on, the mood in the country shifted decisively against the refugees, and the already thin welcome mat began to fray. In January 2015, the Lebanese government introduced visa restrictions that prevented most Syrians fleeing the war from entering the country legally, and in May of that year it ordered the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to stop registering new cases, meaning that the UNHCR can no longer grant new arrivals status as refugees. Most ominous of all, Lebanese politicians have increasingly, and almost unanimously, begun saying that it’s time for Syrian refugees to go home...

Trump’s stance on Jerusalem spikes conflicts between Palestinian and Israeli soldiers (Reuters) Confrontations between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers have taken on a life of their own since Palestinian leaders called for protests against Donald Trump’s decision to treat Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. While Hamas, Fatah and other groups call for a weekly show of strength on Fridays, dozens of stone-throwers turn out along the border between Gaza and Israel every day, even when, as last Friday, a protest is called off due to bad weather...

Indian’s state data debunks myth about Christian conversions (UCANews.com) People converting to Christianity remains nearly equal to the number of Christians leaving the religion in India’s western Maharashtra state, says government figures which negates claims that missioners attract thousands to Christianity...

The last beekeepers of Ethiopia’s Harenna Forest (BBC) In Ethiopia, honey trickles through centuries of culture and religion. It features in 4th-Century Christian frescoes and tapestries, where saints are seen clutching bereles, the traditional fat-bottomed flasks used for serving tej...



Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia Jerusalem





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