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March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
5 September 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Syrian forces sit in the back of an armed vehicle west of Deir al-Zour on 4 September, after taking control of the area in the ongoing battle against ISIS. State media are reporting that the military has broken the siege of the city after more than two years.
(photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)


Syrian army reportedly breaks ISIS siege in Deir al-Zour (BBC) The Syrian military has broken a siege of the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, surrounded for years by so-called Islamic State, state media say. The official Sana news agency reported that troops and allied militiamen had joined up with forces at the Brigade 137 base on the city’s outskirts. An estimated 93,000 civilians have been trapped in an enclave on the western bank of the River Euphrates since 2015...

Vatican calls for new efforts to combat trafficking of migrants (Vatican Radio) Politicians, business leaders, civil society and faith communities must step up efforts to combat the alarming increase in human trafficking. That message was at the heart of a statement given at a meeting in Vienna on Monday by the Holy See’s representative to the fifth thematic session on the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration...

Charity warns of ‘unlivable’ conditions in Gaza (Aljazeera) One million children are suffering from “unlivable” conditions in the Gaza Strip, according to Save the Children, an international charity that promotes children’s rights and provides aid worldwide. “One million children in Gaza are living in dire conditions,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday. “Save the Children considers Gaza to be unlivable now...”

Mother Teresa to be co-patron of Archdiocese of Calcutta (Vatican Radio) As the first anniversary of the sainthood of Mother Teresa was marked on Monday, the Archdiocese of Calcutta, in eastern India, is set to declare her as its co-patron...

Items stolen by ISIS from Mosul museum recovered (IraqiNews.com) Eight artifacts, stolen by Islamic State from Mosul museum, have been recovered after a displaced family returned them to police, an official said. “A displaced family found pivotal artifacts as it returned back to house in al-Zanjili district. The relics were returned back to Federal Police elements deployed there,” Moss’ab Jassim, head of Nineveh monuments department, told Baghdad Today on Sunday...



1 September 2017
Greg Kandra




After three years, priests are again able to celebrate Mass in Mosul, in the ruins of churches. The image above is from a documentary on Christians in Iraq and Syria, “Guardians of the Faith.”
(photo: Facebook)


UN: Last ISIS stronghold in Syria could soon fall (The Guardian) Raqqa, the last Islamic State stronghold in Syria, will fall by the end of October, allowing credible democratic elections to be held within a year, according to the UN special envoy for the country. Setting out a highly optimistic scenario for the end of the civil war, Staffan de Mistura said the country would face a “moment of truth” after the reclaiming of Raqqa. He urged President Bashar al-Assad to recognise he must make a political gesture if he didn’t wish to see a version of Isis return under a new name within months...

After three years of ISIS, the Mass returns to Mosul (CNA) Following the liberation of Mosul, Iraq, from the hands of the Islamic State, Christians are cautiously returning to the city. And as they return, so does the Mass. The Rev. Luis Montes, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, celebrated Mass in August at Saint George Monastery. The priest traveled to Mosul to record part of a documentary entitled Guardianes de la Fe (Guardians of the Faith), which seeks to show the reality of life for Christians in Iraq and Syria...

Israel builds underground wall (AP) Israel is pressing ahead with construction of an underground barrier along the border with the Gaza Strip in an ambitious project meant to halt the threat of attack tunnels built by the Hamas militant group...

Football among the Old Believers in Alaska (The New York Times) Voznesenka is a community of Old Believers, a secluded offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church that resisted reforms in the mid-17th century and still adheres to traditionalist worship, customs, dietary restrictions and styles of dress...



31 August 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Iraqi forces flash the sign for victory as they advance toward the al-Ayadieh area, north of Tal Afar, during the ongoing battle to oust the last pockets of Islamic State group jihadists from the area on 30 August 2017. Iraq’s prime minister today declared the area liberated.
(photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP /Getty Images)


Iraq announces ‘liberation’ of Nineveh province (BBC) Iraq’s prime minister says Nineveh province has been "fully liberated" from so-called Islamic State, after the district of Tal Afar was recaptured. Haider al-Abadi’s announcement followed the defeat of the jihadist group in the town of Ayadiya, where the militants had fled to from the city of Tal Afar. It leaves ISIS in control of just a few urban areas and some barren desert in central and western Iraq...

Pope greets rabbis in Rome (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday greeted a delegation of rabbis in the Vatican for the presentation of the Statement “Between Jerusalem and Rome...”

Syrians adapt to life in Jordanian camp (AP) Signs of refugees settling in are everywhere. Zaatari residents have painted walls and planted gardens. More than 3,000 refugee-run shops — typically single-room market stalls, but some more elaborate — line several main streets in the camp. Businesses include restaurants, fruit and vegetable stalls, hair salons, bridal shops and art galleries...

Coptic Patriarch Tawadros: Let us pray for the evil who attack churches (Fides) Following the attacks on churches and the massacres of Christians that have bloodied Egypt in recent months, “the Coptic Church has prayed for all,” even for “the evil people” who have attacked churches and Christians. With these words, the Coptic Patriarch has again given witness of the transparent faith with which many Coptic Christians have experienced the many experiences of martyrdom that have marked the recent journey of their Church. He did this during an interview with the Japanese television network Asahi, reiterating his confidence in the power of prayer, “which can change hearts...”

Christians in India install wooden cross atop hill (Times of India) The indefinite agitation carried out by the believers under Neyyatinkara Latin Catholic Diocese at Vithura in protest against the demolition of crosses at a hill in Bonacaud took a dramatic turn on Sunday, when a section of agitators defied the police personnel to reach the top of the hill and installed a new wooden cross there...



30 August 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Jordanian security forces stand guard at the Al-Karameh border point with Iraq on 30 August 2017. Jordan and Iraq reopened their only border crossing, saying security had been restored three years after ISIS seized control of frontier areas. (photo: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis urges African nuns to offer credible witness (Vatican Radio) The Holy Father Pope Francis has asked members of the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) to deepen the bonds of friendship and communion among themselves so that they may offer a more convincing witness to society and the Church. He has also called on them to embrace a united apostolate to the poor, the sick and the marginalized...

Jordan and Iraq open border crossing (AFP) Jordan and Iraq on Wednesday reopened their only border crossing, saying security had been restored three years after the Islamic State group seized control of frontier areas. In a joint statement, the two countries’ governments said the crossing, called Turaibil in Iraq and Al-Karameh in Jordan, was reopened after it was “secured... against attacks by criminal gangs...”

Pope and patriarch prepare statement for World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Vatican Radio) At his General Audience, the Pope said he and “our dear brother Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople” had prepared a Message to be released on 1 September. “In [the message],” the Holy Father said, “we invite all to assume a respectful and responsible attitude towards Creation...”

Helping Ethiopian Jews (Times of Israel) Sometimes, it’s easy to read a continual drip-drip-drip of headlines and forget about the people behind them. Take, for example, the headlines these past couple of years about the Falash Mura, the former-and-perhaps-future Jews of Ethiopia, who want to move to Israel...

Pilgrims return to abandoned coal town (Newsworks.org) Only a few structures still stand in what was Centralia, Pennsylvania. Even fewer are visible through the tree cover from the top of an adjacent mountain overlooking what was once a thriving community. The most notable and recognizable structure is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, whose bright-blue domes rise out of the foliage on the side of the mountain. Though all but seven of the town’s residents relocated because of the ongoing fire in the anthracite coal mine below its surface, the church continues to serve a successful parish...



29 August 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a Syrian Christian refugee describes the warm welcome he has received at Vatican parish. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Christian prisoner freed in Iraq (Fides) Rana Behnam is a Christian woman who was freed in the suburbs of Tal Afar after having been held for a long time in a place of segregation by the jihadists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Tal Afar, along with other yazida women. Her release — according to Iraqi media reports — took place during the offensive that was launched last Sunday by the Iraqi army...

Top Vatican official discusses terrorist threat, immigration debate (CNS) The Vatican obviously is concerned about terrorist threats, “especially for the senseless hatred” it represents, and will continue to remain vigilant, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. Speaking to reporters on 26 August Cardinal Parolin said he had seen the most recent video attributed to Islamic State in which the pope and Vatican are threatened, and “one cannot help but be concerned.” However, he said, he did not believe the video prompted extra security measures beyond those that have been in place for some time...

Hostility grows toward Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Reuters) For six years, tensions have simmered as 1.5 million Syrians poured into Lebanon, equal to around a quarter of its population. Refugees have faced waves of hostility since the conflict in neighboring Syria took hold. But the debate over their presence has taken a harder edge in recent months, fueled by political leaders who say Lebanon has lost patience with the social and financial burden of the refugee crisis...

Pope Tawadros dedicates first Coptic church in Japan (Egyptian Streets) Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has inaugurated the first Coptic Orthodox church in Kyoto Japan, state-run MENA news agency reported on Sunday. The church was established in 2016 to serve Egyptian, Ethiopian and Eritrean Coptic communities living in the East Asian country. The inauguration was attended by a number of Coptic bishops including Daniel the bishop of Sydney in Australia in addition to Egyptian Ambassador to Japan Ismail Khairat...

Syrian refugee earns high marks in Canada (Catholic Register) Peace, order, good government — that’s all Jomanah Chahrour’s family needed to succeed when they arrived in Edmonton almost six years ago, fleeing Syria’s chaotic, brutalizing civil war. Headed for McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., with an $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship and her high school diploma from Windsor’s Catholic Central High School in her back pocket, Chahrour doesn’t count her success as merely personal. For the 19-year-old future astrophysicist, success is a family affair...



28 August 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Indian residents walk through flood waters in the Indian state of West Bengal on 24 August. The death toll from the floods have climbed about 1,000. Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims during his Sunday Angelus. (photo: Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis offers prayers for India flood victims (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered prayers on Sunday for the victims of massive flooding in Bangladesh, Nepal, and northern India over the past several days. “I express my closeness to all the [affected] populations, and pray for the victims and for all who suffer because of this calamity,” Pope Francis said…

Car bombing in Baghdad kills 12 (Al Jazeera) A car bombing has struck a busy market area in eastern Baghdad, killing at least 12 people, Iraqi officials say. The explosives-laden car went off at the wholesale Jamila market in Baghdad’s Shia district of Sadr City on Monday morning, a police officer said. The explosion also wounded 28 other people, he said, saying the death toll was expected to rise further…

Pope pleased with ‘constructive’ visit of Cardinal Parolin to Russia (Vatican Radio) In an exclusive interview with Vatican media on Friday, Cardinal Pietro Parolin reviewed his state visit to Russia this week, pointing out its highlights and the issues as yet unresolved between the Holy See and the Russian Federation. Cardinal Parolin said he briefed Pope Francis immediately upon his return to the Vatican on Thursday. He said the Pope “was pleased with the impressions and positive results which I shared with him...”

Church in India remembers 2008 anti-Christian riots (Crux) On 25 August, Christians around India marked Kandhamal Day, commemorating the ninth anniversary of the worst anti-Christian attacks in India’s history, and some of the worst anywhere in the world…

Hundreds in Gaza go to the movies for the first time in 30 years (The Independent) Film lovers in Gaza were able to watch a movie in a cinema for the first time in 30-years at a screening of the premier of a film about the treatment of Palestinian prisoners. Gaza City’s Samer Cinema has been closed since the 1960s, but this weekend the building played host to around 300 moviegoers, along with a gaggle of press…



Tags: Iraq India Gaza Strip/West Bank Russia Relief

24 August 2017
Greg Kandra




Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister for External Affairs, met with a group of Salesians recently and assured them that a kidnapped priest, the Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil, was alive and could be freed soon.
(photo: Vatican Radio)


Cardinal Parolin meets with Putin (Vatican Radio) Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin yesterday met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the presidential residence in Sochi. According to a statement from the Holy See Press Office the meeting lasted for about an hour and was held in a positive, friendly, and respectful atmosphere with an open exchange of views on various themes including international and bilateral relations...

Indian official: ‘Father Tom could be released soon’ (Vatican Radio) Sushma Swaraj assured a delegation of Indian Salesains who met her in New Delhi on 17 August that the Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped in Yemen a year ago, is alive and could be released soon. Speaking to the delegation the Minister for External Affairs said that securing his freedom was among the highest priorities of the government. She added that she felt for the “unimaginable trauma and suffering” Father Uzhunnalil has endured...

Electricity crisis threatens clean water services in Gaza (Middle East Monitor) In light of the severe electricity crisis clean water and sewage services in the Gaza Strip are suffering, which is ultimately affecting residents of the besieged enclave, Quds Press reported yesterday. Gaza residents only have four hours of electricity every day, sometimes every two days...

Forces agree to truce in Ukraine for start of new school year (BBC) Forces fighting in eastern Ukraine have committed to a ceasefire before the start of the new school year, say international monitors. The truce will take hold at midnight on Friday, OSCE representative Ambassador Martin Sajdik said. Shelling has previously marred the 1 September return to school for children — an occasion that is widely celebrated in Ukraine...

Russian culture alive in rural Alaska (Voice of America) Alaska is the largest state in the United States. It is also one of the least populated. The state is home to 741,000 people. Among them are Native Alaskans, immigrants, adventure-seekers and oil industry workers from other parts of the country. The state is also home to a community known as the Russian Old Believers. They came to Alaska from Russia nearly 50 years ago. They built a village on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The village is called Nikolaevsk...



23 August 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Patriarch Kirill and the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, center, met for talks yesterday in Moscow. (photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Getty Images)

Parolin, Kirill discuss Middle East and Ukraine (Crux) Vatican Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin met Tuesday with the Russian Patriarch Kirill in Moscow, where, among other things, they discussed the difficult situations in the Middle East and Ukraine. Referring to the struggle in Ukraine, which pits Ukrainian forces against Russian-based separatists, Patriarch Kirill stated that the “Church cannot play any other role if not one of peacemaking when people are in conflict among each other...

‘ISIS’s last stand’: U.S. official says militants caught between converging forces (The Independent) Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Isis militants are now trapped in a military vice that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, the U.S. Defense Secretary has said. General James Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit today...

Jordan opens first job center in Syrian refugee camp (Voice of America) Jordan has opened its first job center inside a refugee camp, unlocking work opportunities across the country for thousands living in the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp, the U.N. labor agency said Tuesday...

Children from Gaza make first visit to Jerusalem (CNN) The selfie stick looked a bit out of place in front of the Dome of the Rock, but no one seemed to care. The group of about 100 children were too busy snapping their own pictures around the holy site, scarcely able to believe they were really in Jerusalem...

Copts celebrate Marian feast across Egypt (Daily News Egypt) The Coptic Orthodox Church celebrated Tuesday the Feast of the Assumption of Mary across all Egyptian governorates. Processions through the street around The Holy Virgin Mary Monastery in Assiut took place on Tuesday eve, as well as prayers and celebrations across other churches and monasteries such as the Virgin Mary and Mar Youhanna Church in Sharqeya among others. Meanwhile, The Copts-United website reported on Tuesday that prayers in a village in Abu Qirqas city in the governorate of Minya took place in the street after security forces closed the space for prayers, which is affiliated to the Minya Archbishopric on Sunday...

Plans for Malta’s first Russian Orthodox church (Times of Malta) The Russian Orthodox community in Malta has applied to build a church, the first of its kind on the island, in Kappara, but will be facing opposition from local residents. The St Paul the Apostle Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church, a community of around 200 people, does not currently have its own church in Malta and has so far held its services in Catholic churches around the island...



22 August 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a leader of the Greek Catholic Church expresses his confidence that Christians will return to Iraq, saying “These are our homes, our lands.” (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Iraq: Up to 15,000 more Christians returning this month (Independent Catholic News) Within just one month, up to 15,000 displaced Iraqi Christians are expected to return to the town in the ancient Nineveh Plains which suffered the worst violence carried out by ISIS. The return of an expected 3,000 families to Qaraqosh comes amid growing concern among parents to secure places for their children at local schools — quickly being repaired in time for the new academic year next month...

Vatican, Russia agree on visa-free diplomatic travel (Vatican Radio) During the press conference following their talks, the Holy See and the Russian Federation signed an Agreement waiving visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports. Cardinal Parolin and Foreign Minister Lavrov called this a sign of the two countries’ desire to continue to work together on bilateral relations and issues of international concern...

Cardinal Parolin describes meeting with Hilarion as ‘very constructive’ (Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State on Monday described the tone of his two-hour meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, as “very constructive.” Cardinal Pietro Parolin is on afour-day visit to Russia during which he is scheduled to meet the Russian Patriarch Kirill and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday before holding talks with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday...

Caritas India helps flood victims (Vatican Radio) Caritas India, the Catholic Church’s main charity organization is reaching out to the unreached areas of Bihar and Assam states affected by the recent floods. The Rev. Frederick D’Souza, executive director of Caritas India said that the organization has allocated 50 million rupees (US$ 780,000) and is now handing out food, medicine an tents. Volunteers are also setting up medical camps...

World Humanitarian Day marked with call to support Jordan (The Jordan Times) On the occasion of the World Humanitarian Day (WHD), the UN reiterates that civilians, including humanitarian workers, must not be targets in regions of conflict. The occasion is also an opportunity to shed light on what Jordan has provided to those in need, particularly refugees, and to call on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities...

Ethiopia’s miraculous underground churches (BBC) Officially Christian since 330 AD, Ethiopia claims to be the oldest Christian country in the world. And despite being ravaged by poverty, faith has remained strong over the centuries; Lalibela’s medieval rock-hewn churches are clear proof of that...



21 August 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from February, women hold placards as they take part in a protest demanding better living conditions at the refugee camp of the former international Helliniko airport in Athens, Greece. Pope Francis has released a message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees, underscoring the Church’s responsibility to extend aid. (photo: CNS/Yannis Kolesidis, EPA)

Pope releases message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees — 14 January 2018 — was released by the Vatican on Monday. In the message the Holy Father says that providing aid to migrants and refugees is a “great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities...”

Cardinal Parolin discusses goals of upcoming Russia visit (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who is on a 4-day visit to Russia, gave a wide-ranging interview with the Russian state news agency TASS, ahead of his arrival on Monday...

Jets destroy ISIS convoy in Syria (BBC) Dozens of so-called Islamic State (IS) militants are reported to have been killed in a Russian air strike near the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zour. Russia’s defense ministry said at least 200 jihadists had died after its air force targeted a convoy of about 20 4x4’s, armored vehicles and tanks. It did not say when the strike took place, but a monitoring group reported that a convoy had been hit last Friday...

Peace returns to Minya village after skirmishes between Muslims, Copts (The Egypt Independent) Calm returned to Ezbat al-Forn, of Abyouha village in Abu Qurqas city of Minya governorate on Monday, following skirmishes Sunday between Christians and Muslims. According to head of Abu Qurqas city council, Brigadier Mohamed Salah, fights broke out on Sunday after some Coptic citizens in the village of Ezbat al-Forn tried to pray at the house of a citizen under the guidance of a priest, prompting some Muslims to intercept for not possessing a license...

Indian prime minister’s Independence Day address leaves Christians ‘disappointed’ (The Tablet) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence day address has done little to reassure the country’s Catholic population, as numbers of targeted attacks against Christians continues to rise. Addressing the nation from the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on 15 August, Modi declared that India is “the land of Gandhi and Buddha, we have to move forward taking everyone along...We have to successfully carry it forward and that is why in the name of faith, violence cannot be allowed.” Yet Christians have said the Prime Minister failed to denounce the targeted sectarian violence that minority Christians and Muslims have been subjected to under under Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party, known for espousing a Hindu nationalist agenda...

Pope encourages Methodists and Waldensians to walk path to full Christian unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged Methodist and Waldensian Churches to continue to walk together with the Catholic Church on the path towards full Christian unity, pointing out that in a world lacerated by violence and fear it is all the more important to live and to convey the Christian message of welcome and fraternity...







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