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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
6 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis meets at the Vatican with imams from Britain and tells them the most important thing is the capacity to listen. (video:Rome Reports/YouTube)

Pope meets with Catholic-Muslim delegation (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Wednesday with English Cardinal Vincent Nichols and four Muslim leaders from Britain who came to highlight the deep-rooted interfaith relations among the different religious communities in the UK today...

ISIS executes 33 in Syria (CNN) ISIS killed 33 people execution-style in eastern Syria on Wednesday, according to a monitoring group. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the terror organization carried out the mass killing in the the al-Mayadin desert near the strategic city of Deir Ezzor on Wednesday morning, it said, adding that its activists were “able to monitor” the incident...

With healthcare faltering in Gaza, more seek care in Israel (Reuters) For many patients suffering from life-threatening diseases in the Gaza Strip, treatment in neighboring Israel or the occupied West Bank is a much sought-after option. But Israel tightly restricts Palestinian passage from the Gaza Strip, one of its bitterest enemies. Although it exempts from the ban Gazans seeking “life-saving or life-changing medical treatment” if it is unavailable in the territory, crossing the border isn’t easy...

The Paschal Letter of His Beatitude Gregorios III (ByzCath.org) “Children of the Resurrection” is a beautiful title first used by Our Lord Jesus Christ in his discussion with a group of Sadducean Jews, who denied the resurrection of the dead. Christ countered their argument by saying that human beings after death “are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being children of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:36) He added, “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.” (Luke 20: 37-38; cf. Matthew 22: 31-32) For each of you, this means that because you have been created in the image and likeness of God, you are a child of God, life and resurrection...



5 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis condemns chemical bombing in Syria and the terror attack in Russia during his weekly General Audience on 5 April. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope decries horror of Syria attacks (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed to the consciences of local and international leaders to bring an end to the Syrian tragedy. Speaking during the weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said that it is “with horror” that we witness the events that have taken place in Syria...

Pope prays for victims and families of Russia bomb attack (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is praying for the victims of a bomb attack in Russia and for all those affected by the tragedy. Addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience, the Pope turned his attention to the “serious attack of the past days in the St. Petersburg subway,” which he said, caused victims and a sense of loss and confusion in the Russian population...

Franciscans launch initiative to combat violence against women in India (Fides) The Franciscans in India have launched a special nationwide campaign with this goal: to end violence against women through measures to prevent, stop and find remedies regarding its effects...

World’s first crowdfunded hospital to open in Aleppo (The London Economic) The World’s first crowdfunded hospital will open tomorrow in Aleppo. Hope Hospital, which was funded by 4,800 single donations from people all over the world, will open to treat the children of Aleppo sending a strong message of solidarity to the Syrian doctors (the Independent Doctors Association) who were rebuilding this children’s hospital for the seventh time after the six previous buildings had been bombed out of action...



4 April 2017
Greg Kandra




A Russian woman weeps as she lays flowers at a memorial 4 April in Moscow in memory of victims of a bomb blast the previous day in St. Petersburg. The metro attack, which killed at least 11 people and wounded dozens more, was carried out by a suicide bomber, said Russian officials.
(photo: CNS/Maxim Shipenkov, EPA)


Gas attack said to kill dozens in Syria (The New York Times) A toxic gas attack killed dozens of people in northern Syria on Tuesday morning, including women and children, and sickened scores more, according to medics, rescuers and witnesses in the rebel-held province of Idlib, who said the gas had been delivered by a government airstrike...

Russian Orthodox leader asks for prayers after St. Petersburg bombing (Premier.org) The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has asked for prayers for those impacted by a bombing at a metro station in St Petersburg on Monday. Patriarch Kirill said in a statement that there was never any justification for such an “impudent” crime...

Moscow archbishop laments ‘curse of terrorism’ after St. Petersburg bombing (CNA) Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Moscow offered his prayers and condolences following a deadly explosion in the St. Petersburg metro on Monday afternoon. “With deep sorrow, I learned about the villainous terrorist act in St. Petersburg, which killed nine people and caused suffering and grief to many people,” the archbishop said in a 3 April statement. “Together with all faithful Catholics and believers of other faiths and religions, I turn to God with a burning prayer for deliverance of Russia and the world from the curse of terrorism,” he continued. At least 11 people were killed, according to 4 April estimates, and dozens more injured in an explosion on the St. Petersburg metro Monday afternoon...

Report: Israel blocking access to Gaza (AP) An international human rights group on Monday accused Israel of barring foreign researchers from entering the Gaza Strip to document abuses, saying the restrictions call into question Israel’s stated commitment to investigating possible rights violations. In a 47-page report, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of “systematically” preventing its researchers from visiting Gaza since 2008, only granting them one exceptional permit last year. The group also said that Egypt has prevented it and London-based Amnesty International from entering Gaza from its territory since 2012...



3 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2015, a young Syrian mother who was displaced by violence holds her 2-year-old child outside their tent at an informal settlement in Deir al Ahmar, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Lebanon’s prime minister is warning this his country is close to the “breaking point” because of the strain of caring for refugees. (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, CRS)

Lebanon ‘at breaking point’ due to refugees (Al Jazeera) Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has warned that his country is close to “breaking point” due to strains of hosting more than one million Syrian refugees, fearing that unrest could escalate due to tensions between refugees and local communities...

Priest visits Iraqi church destroyed by ISIS (CNA) The desolation of a burned Iraqi church left Argentine-born missionary Father Luis Montes with the firm conviction that Satan is at the root of the attacks, and Christians must pray for the conversion of ISIS...

Evidence of ISIS using human shields in Iraq (BBC) The BBC has seen evidence that so-called Islamic State (IS) has been using children as human shields as they fight to keep control of the Iraqi city of Mosul. BBC Persian correspondent Nafiseh Kohnavard and producer Joe Inwood had exclusive access to helicopter missions of the Iraqi military and witnessed the battle from above...

A journey into Syria’s secret torture wards (The Washington Post) In interviews across Lebanon, Turkey and Europe, more than a dozen survivors and army defectors described horrors in Syrian military hospitals across the country for which war crimes lawyers say they have struggled to find a modern parallel...

Kerala bishop issues pastoral letter for parents on modesty in church (Times of India) In the pastoral letter published in Idukki diocese bulletin, Idukki bishop urged girls to avoid wearing outfits shorter than knee-length while inside the church or on dais to read out the Holy Bible. He also asked women churchgoers who keep special clothes to be worn for prayers and rituals...

In Ethiopia, a search for the lost ark (Houstonia) Ethiopians claim that the ark was never lost, as is believed by most historians, but has been in their country for centuries. Whether that’s true or not is a matter of great speculation. According to legend and many historical records, the Queen of Sheba journeyed from Ethiopia to Jerusalem where she met King Solomon. One thing led to another and after Sheba returned to her country, their son Menelik I was born...



31 March 2017
Greg Kandra




Iraqis fleeing their homes in Mosul’s old city carry their belongings as they leave the fighting area on 30 March 2017. (photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N.: Palestinian population declines in Syria (AP) The U.N.’s Palestinian relief agency says Syria’s Palestinian refugee population has fallen by one-fifth since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011. UNRWA Director Pierre Krahenbuhl said Friday there are 440,000 refugees in Syria, compared to 560,000 in the country before the war...

Families trapped on the front line in Mosul (The Guardian) Those who made it out were the lucky ones. More than 2,000 civilians have been seriously injured in the battle, which began on 17 October with a push on the east side of the Tigris river and has now switched to the western bank, a densely packed maze of suburbs in which an embedded and ruthless enemy is giving no quarter...

Vatican launches interfaith charter promoting care for the elderly (Vatican Radio) An inter-faithCharter promoting palliative care for the elderly across the world has been launched at the Vatican. Religious leaders, patients and medics attended a conference to discuss future challenges of a rising elderly population and an increasing demand for social care...

Egypt’s Coptic Christians making pilgrimages to Jerusalem in record numbers (Fox News) After decades of pressure to not make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Egypt’s Coptic Christian population is now making such trips to Jerusalem at a record pace. The number of Egyptian tourists to Israel has nearly doubled to 7,450 from 4,428 between 2014 and 2016, according to Religion News Service...

All signals point to another war in Gaza (Bloomberg News) The next war in Gaza is coming. In over five years as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, I found no issue more impervious to solutions than Gaza. We were constantly preventing, managing or responding to crises — trying to head off terror attacks by Hamas and others, supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, negotiating ceasefires and working to alleviate human suffering...

The rise of the Russian Orthodox Church (CNN) In the nearly 26 years since the Soviet Union’s collapse, the role of the once-persecuted Russian Orthodox Church has transformed dramatically. The church has now become a defining characteristic of Russian identity actively promoted by the Kremlin. “With the collapse of communist society, there was a great void,” said Alexander Dugin, chief editor of Tsargrad TV, a Russian Orthodox channel. “The only way to fill this void was to return to the pre-communist values. And pre-communist values were Christian Orthodox...”



30 March 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugees play in the Zaatari camp in Jordan, which shelters some 80,000 Syrian refugees. (photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

Resettlements proceeding as Syrian refugee total tops five million (UNHCR) As the number of men, women and children fleeing six years of war in Syria passes the five million mark, the international community needs to do more to help them, the U.N. refugee chief said today. “We still have a long road to travel in expanding resettlement and the number and range of complementary pathways available for refugees,” said Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees…

Lenten charity in violence-hit Kashmir (UCAN-India) Catholics in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state have decided to use money saved by their Lenten sacrifices to help people affected by recent violence in the Muslim-majority region. “Our family doesn’t eat much during this period; we abandon buying expensive things and whatever is saved out of this exercise we give to the poor,” said Peter Soney, a Catholic parishioner in Kashmir, a troubled region bordering Pakistan…

Pope to interreligious Iraqi group: ‘Abraham our common father’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday greeted the members of a delegation from the Iraqi Supervisory Boards and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. “Your visit is a true, fraternal richness, and is, therefore, a path towards peace among all, peace in the heart, in the family, in your country, and in the world,” the pope told the group in a private audience. The Iraqi Supervisory Boards are made up of Shiites and Sunnis, as well as Christians, Yazidis and Mandaeans, and are part of a Permanent Committee for interreligious dialogue…

Ethiopia extends state of emergency by four months (Al Jazeera) The Ethiopian parliament has extended by four months a state of emergency it declared six months ago after almost a year of anti-government demonstrations. The widely expected extension comes amid reports of continued violence and anti-government activities in some rural areas. At least 500 people were killed by security forces during the year of protests…

Will Christians soon be enrolling at Egypt’s Al Azhar? (Al Monitor) On 6 March, parliament member Mohamed Abu Hamed announced his intention to submit to parliament a proposal amending the law that regulates Al Azhar affairs. The proposal is designed to affiliate nonreligious faculties at Al Azhar University — such as the faculties of medicine, engineering, media and communications — with the Ministry of Higher Education instead of Al Azhar institution, which would subsequently allow Christian students to enroll in these faculties…

U.N. refugee agency urges search missions after latest shipwreck in Europe (U.N. News Center) With nearly 150 people dead or missing in another shipwreck off the Mediterranean coast, the United Nations refugee agency today stressed the importance of saving lives at sea. “This latest tragedy comes as a stark reminder of the vital importance of robust search and rescue capacities,” said Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk of UNHCR…



Tags: Syria India Egypt Refugees Ethiopia

29 March 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




A young Mosul civilian, injured during the ongoing conflict between government forces and ISIS, receives treatment at a field hospital. (photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

Engulfed in battle, Mosul civilians run for their lives (New York Times) Around a half-million people are still thought to be trapped in an ever-shrinking area of Mosul, along with an estimated 2,000 remaining Islamic State fighters. There, they are caught in a frightening crossfire. As Iraqi forces have advanced, American airstrikes have at times leveled entire blocks — including the one in Mosul Jidideh this month that residents said left as many as 200 civilians dead. At the same time, the Islamic State fighters have used masses of civilians as human shields, and have been indiscriminate about sniper and mortar fire…

As ISIS is driven out, Iraqi Assyro-Chaldeans dream of returning home (AINA) The cost of rebuilding Christian villages destroyed by ISIS in northern Iraq could exceed $200 million, according to a survey carried out by a Catholic charity. But, with some Christians already going back to the Nineveh Plain, the report revealed a growing appetite among the displaced communities to go home…

Pope Francis renews appeal for prayers for Iraqi people (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has asked for prayers for the people of Iraq, also appealing for all in Mosul to “engage fully with the civil protection forces, as an imperative and urgent obligation…”

Coptic pope attempts to reassure Egyptians after attacks (AINA) Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II attempted on Monday to reassure Egyptians after the recent attacks on Copts in North Sinai, stressing that the Coptic families that have fled the governorate out of fear of terrorist violence will return to the city “when the time is right…”

Palestinians get ‘right to return’ — to Jerusalem (Al Monitor) The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem cannot be permanently stripped of their residency rights after having lived elsewhere…

Ancient church discovered in Georgia (Pravoslavie) The ruins of an ancient one-nave church have been discovered in Ilto’s Gorge in the village of Chartali of the Akhmeta municipality, in the Kaheti region, northeast of Tbilisi. The municipal cultural center also reports that traces of a settlement have been observed in the surrounding area, reports Blagovest-Info. According to cultural center head Kakha Mamulashvili, Ilto’s Gorge is practically unstudied from a cultural heritage point of view…



Tags: Iraq Palestine Iraqi Christians Jerusalem Georgia

28 March 2017
Greg Kandra




A member of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspects the Tabqa dam on 27 March 2017. A Russian general has accused the U.S. of targeting Syria’s infrastructure, including this dam.
(photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)


Russian general claims U.S. targeting dam in Syria (AP) A senior Russian general on Tuesday criticized the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants for allegedly targeting Syria’s infrastructure — including a key dam — in territory held by the Sunni extremist group. Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the military’s General Staff accused the coalition of trying to “completely destroy critical infrastructure in Syria and complicate post-war reconstruction as much as possible...”

Report: ‘alarming pattern’ in U.S.-led strikes in Mosul (AP) A recent spike in civilian casualties in Mosul suggests the U.S.-led coalition is not taking adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths as it battles Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants alongside Iraqi ground forces, Amnesty International said on Tuesday...

Syrian refugees selling sex to survive in Lebanon (BBC) Lebanon has long been known as a sex tourism capital in the Middle East, but it’s an industry which is exploiting Syrian refugees. Benjamin Zand meets those who say prostitution is their only way to survive, and finds out how Eastern European women in “super night clubs” are being locked up, by law, every day...

Christian graves vandalized in India (AsiaNews) Crosses taken down; tombstones smashed: at least ten Christian tombs were vandalized in the Rajapur Allahabad cemetery (Uttar Pradesh), as shown in a video published and provided by the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). Its president, Sajan K. George, told AsiaNews: “The violence against Christian tombs deeply hurt our religious feelings and show contempt for our ancestors. “This is done with the culture of impunity, and with intent to cause insecurity and fear in the minds of the minisucule Christian community. As can be seen, crosses have been broken, and epitaphs of nearly a dozen graves have been smashed...”



27 March 2017
Greg Kandra




The undated photo above shows the dam of Tabqa, also called ‘Dam of Thawra’ (‘Dam of the Revolution’). The lake created by the water reserve is called Lake al-Assad. U.S.-backed forces will pause military operations near the dam amid conflicting reports about its stability.
(photo: Claude Salhani/Sygma via Getty Images)


Fighters to pause fighting near Syria dam (AP) U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria said Monday they will pause military operations near a major dam held by the Islamic State group in order to allow engineers to fix any problems after conflicting reports about its stability...

Pope greets immigrant families in Milan (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday greeted the Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of Milan at the beginning of his one-day pastoral visit to the city. Upon his arrival, residents gave the Holy Father two gifts: a priestly stole and a picture of a statuette of the Madonna...

Egypt’s Copts ‘fulfilling a dream’ of traveling to Jerusalem (RNS) For decades, merchant Refaat El-Sayeh, a Coptic Christian, wanted to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, visit the Church of the Nativity in nearby Bethlehem — but mostly, he wanted to feel closer to God. But for years, those pilgrimages for Egypt’s Coptic Christians, like El-Sayeh, were discouraged. “To visit Jerusalem and the holy places was always my wish,” El-Sayeh said. “You feel the hand of God. This is the lifelong dream of every Christian in Al-Kosheh.” Now, it is a dream increasingly being realized. Last year, El-Sayeh and 25 others from this town 300 miles south of Cairo made an Easter pilgrimage to Jerusalem, part of a growing number of Egypt’s Coptic Christians doing the same...

First Russian Orthodox church built on Cyprus (RussianConstruction.com) An opening ceremony of a Russian Church in the name of St. Andrew The Apostle And All Russian Saints took place in the city of Episkopi in Cyprus on Sunday. “The Church in the name of St. Andrew the Apostle and All Russian Saints will become home for the Russian community of Cyprus and the city of Episcopia,” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, said after the ceremony...

Travel agents putting faith in religious tourism (Travel Market Report) Eitan Sasson, North America marketing and sales director for the Israeli Dan Hotels chain said a wide array of faiths tour Israel, from families like the Halpern Lanz’s, “to Ethiopian Christians who come for their Easter celebration, members of the Bahai faith who come to Israel for pilgrimage (their spiritual center is in the city of Haifa) and all U.S. Christian denominations who come to connect with the origins of their faith and walk in Jesus’ footsteps...”



24 March 2017
Greg Kandra




Diplomats take part in a round of negotiations with the Syrian government delegation as UN-backed Syria peace talks resumed on 24 March 2017 at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. (photo: AFP/POOL/Debus Bakubiyse/Getty Images)

Geneva talks resume over Syria (Al Jazeera) A fresh round of UN-brokered talks between rival sides in the Syrian conflict resumed in Geneva on Friday but prospects for a breakthrough remain slim, amid ongoing violence across the country. In Syria, rebels were advancing in Hama Province, as part of their biggest offensive against government forces in months...

Mosul’s east begins to bustle but recovery a long way off (Reuters) Eastern Mosul is coming back to life. In the few weeks since Iraqi forces drove Islamic State from this side of the city, markets have opened and bulldozers have begun to clear the debris left by battle. Stalls spilling onto the street in between collapsed buildings display fruit and vegetables, and vendors play recordings advertising SIM cards and mobile phones — use of which was punishable by death under Islamic State. But everywhere are reminders of the pain the city has endured...

Indian cardinal: Dalit Christians facing more discrimination (Crux) A leading Indian Cardinal says the Catholic Church in country now accepts that Dalit Christians face more discrimination given their status of “untouchability.” Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay (now called Mumbai), made his comments in discussions about their plight and possible solutions during the annual gathering of the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC), which took place in Mumbai from 18-91 March 2017...

Churches that once shunned one another come together to sponsor Syrian refugees in Canada (RNS) To Yakielashek, that makes what’s happened in Dauphin — a rural community 200 miles northwest of Winnipeg — all the more remarkable. A year and a half ago, three churches put aside theological differences and came together to sponsor the resettlement of three Syrian refugee families to this town of 8,500...

Designer turns refugee tent into a fashion statement (Jordan Times) Once home to a family of Syrian refugees, a UN tent has found a new life as a dress still bearing the marks and stains of its past. “Dress for Our Time,” the brainchild of fashion designer Helen Storey, has turned a discarded tent from the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan into a hooded dress featured on stage at the Glastonbury Festival and in the conference halls of Dubai...







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