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Current Issue
September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
7 March 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan explains why it is important for Christians to remain in the Middle East. (video: Rome Reports)

A council of Christian communities takes shape in Kirkuk (Fides) The appeal repeatedly launched by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I to Iraqi Christians not to proceed “in random order” on the political and social ground, but to try to merge their forces in one “component” is beginning to have its first effects. On Monday, 6 March, the creation of a “Council” of Christian communities that proposes itself as a liaison between the different political and social organizations took shape in Kirkuk...

Report: Syrian children suffering staggering levels of trauma (The Guardian) Children in Syria are suffering from “toxic stress,” a severe form of psychological trauma that can cause life-long damage, according to a study that charts a rise in self-harm and suicide attempts among children as young as 12. A report by Save the Children and its partner agencies in Syria paints a harrowing picture of the country’s children, 5.8 million of whom are in need of aid, after a war which reaches its sixth year next week...

New U.S. travel ban blocks migrants from six nations, excluding Iraq (The New York Times) President Trump signed an executive order on Monday blocking citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, the most significant hardening of immigration policy in generations, even with changes intended to blunt legal and political opposition. The order was revised to avoid the tumult and protests that engulfed the nation’s airports after Mr. Trump signed his first immigration directive on 27 January. That order was ultimately blocked by a federal appeals court...

New travel ban meets with concern, opposition (CNS) Within hours of President Donald Trump’s new executive order 6 March banning refugees from six majority-Muslim nations, Catholic and other religious groups joined secular leaders in questioning the wisdom of such a move, with others vowing to oppose it outright...

Patriarch: corruption is a ‘social leprosy’ (Fides) “The state of corruption, ethical degradation, political feudalism that the country is suffering from, the prioritization of personal and sectarian interests is hindering the enhancement of the state institutions and pose a deadly social leprosy.” This is what Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai said in his weekly Sunday sermon at the patriarchal seat of Bkerké, with an obvious reference to the political and social situation in Lebanon...

Archbishop Pizzaballa sends letter to the people of Jerusalem (Vatican Radio) The Apostolic Administrator for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., has sent a letter to the people of the diocese at the beginning of the season of Lent. Archbishop Pizzaballa, formerly the Franciscan “custos” of the Holy Land, was appointed apostolic administrator in July 2016. In his Lenten letter, the Archbishop acknowledges mistakes made in the Patriarchate, especially concerning financial and administrative matters...



6 March 2017
Greg Kandra




Displaced Syrian children, who fled their hometowns due to clashes between regime forces and ISIS, walk in a field in Kharufiyah, on 4 March 2017. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

U.N. says 66,000 displaced in Syria (AP) Five months of multi-sided clashes in Syria’s crowded northern battlefield have displaced some 66,000 people, a U.N. humanitarian agency said Sunday, a day after the U.S. bolstered Kurdish-led forces with a deployment of armored vehicles amid preparations for a push toward the Islamic State group’s de facto capital...

Patriarchate releases statement on Patriarch Gregoire III (Fides) A note released by the communications office of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the Greek-Melkite reports that Grègoire Patriarch Laham III continues to carry out his role, is preparing to launch “new projects” and plans to “double his efforts at local and international levels,” to “alleviate the suffering of the population in the ongoing crisis, especially in Syria, Iraq and Palestine.” The statement makes explicit reference to articles published in the local media, containing hints of the possible resignation of the Patriarch, and reprimands media representatives to publish news only after checking the reliability...

Egypt’s Christians are being driven out; will the world notice? (CNA) A spike in attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt, spurred by a video threat from ISIS, has drawn the prayers and concern of advocates, who are urging global leaders to take notice...

Egyptian professor says defending churches against attack is part of Islam’s doctrine (Fides) Attacks on churches are comparable to “attacks on mosques,” and the defense of Christians and their churches “is part of the doctrine of the Muslim faith,” according to Professor Mohamed Mokthtar Gomaa, Minister of Awqaf, citing the teachings of Ibn Hazm, the Arab theologian in the Andalusian period, leading proponent and codifier of the Zahiri school of Islamic thought...

Kerala as an example of ‘interfaith peace and harmony’ (AL.com) Birmingham psychiatrist Dr. N.S. Xavier believes the world would have less religious strife if people of all faiths learned the lessons of a region in India where Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Jews co-existed peacefully for centuries...

A visit to Ethiopia reveals Biblical mysteries (Winnipeg Free Press) In 2017, Protestants are marking the 500th anniversary of Reformation. It seems like a big deal until you visit Ethiopia and meet members of a church that traces its origins as far back as 2,000 years ago...



2 March 2017
Greg Kandra




Displaced Egyptian Christian families, who used to live in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, sit near their belongings after arriving 24 February at a church in Ismailia. Catholic churches in Ismailia, with help from Caritas, have helped Coptic Orthodox fleeing Islamic State attacks in North Sinai.
(photo: CNS/EPA)


Coptic Christians flee Sinai after killings (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority have fled the Sinai Peninsula to Ismailia city, northeast of the capital Cairo, following a series of killings by a local armed group. The assailants have shot and killed at least seven Christians in separate attacks in Sinai’s El Arish city in February. At least 90 families have reached the Ismailia governorate, according to an official of the Coptic Orthodox Church...

Egyptian president meets with Patriarchs (Fides) Religious leaders, in the current historical phase, have a key role in spreading the principle of citizenship in all Arab countries, and reject false interpretations of holy books and religious teachings used by extremist and terrorist organizations as ideological tools. This is how Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi expressed his view on the need to “renew religious discourse” in the Middle East...

Situation for Iraqi refugees in Jordan ‘critical and dangerous’ (CNS) Catholic leaders have expressed concern for tens of thousands of Iraqi Christian refugees sheltering in Jordan as access to international aid tightens with crises deepening in the Middle East and elsewhere. “The situation of Iraqi Christians refugees is critical and dangerous,” Father Khalil Jaar told Catholic News Service on the sidelines of a conference hosted by the Vatican Embassy in Amman and the Catholic charity, Caritas Jordan...

Prayers planned for kidnapped Indian Salesian (CNS) The Salesians have organized a special prayer meeting to mark the one-year anniversary of the kidnapping of Indian Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil. The priest was kidnapped in Aden, Yemen, 4 March 2016, in an attack in which four Missionaries of Charity and at least 12 others were killed...

Russian Catholics hope for a new springtime for small Byzantine church (CNS) One of the smallest Eastern Catholic churches in the world, the Russian Catholic Church, faces some big issues, including its survival. That’s the issue that will be front and center at a Congress of Russian Catholic delegates from around the world meeting in northern Italy in June. It has been organized by an Australian-based Russian Catholic priest, Father Lawrence Cross, a retired lecturer in theology at Australian Catholic University...



2 March 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis announces his prayer intention for March: to help persecuted Christians. (video: The Vatican/YouTube)

Pope’s prayer intention for March: Support for persecuted Christians (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ prayer intention for March is Support for Persecuted Christians: That persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church...

UN: Both sides committed war crimes in Syria (Al Jazeera) Both sides in last year’s battle for Syria’s Aleppo city committed war crimes, including a “deliberate” bombing of a humanitarian convoy by the Syrian government, according to a new United Nations investigation. The UN Commission of Inquiry’s report released on Wednesday said Syrian government and allied Russian forces “pervasively used” unguided munitions to bomb densely populated areas in rebel-held eastern Aleppo between July and its fall on 22 December, amounting to the war crime of indiscriminate attacks...

Iraqi forces fight ISIS counterattack (Reuters) Islamic State fighters launched a counter-attack against advancing U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in western Mosul during an overnight storm, as the battle for control of the militants’ last major urban stronghold in Iraq intensified. Explosions and gun fire rang out across the city’s southwestern districts in the early hours of Thursday. The fighting eased in the late morning, although a Reuters correspondent saw an air strike and rebel mortar fire...

Kerala facing worst drought in a century (Deccan Chronicle) Revenue minister E. Chandrasekharan has painted a grim picture of the drought situation in the state. He said that already 30,353.06 hectares of agricultural land have been destroyed by drought, which according to him could be the “worst in the century”...

Head of Russian Orthodox church slams social media “disease” (Calvert Journal) Yesterday Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, showed worshipers at Moscow’s Epiphany Cathedral that he might be more tech-savvy than we give him credit for, decrying Russian young people’s obsession with social media. According to Patriarch Kirill, young people desperate for approval on social media are suffering from a “real disease.” Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the religious leader sees this issue as rooted in vanity...



1 March 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita




CNEWA’s Msgr. John Kozar visits Father Mario da Silva and the religious who live and work in Gaza during a pastoral visit in 2016. (photo: CNEWA)

Attacks on Copts ‘a message from ISIS’ (Al Jazeera) The latest string of attacks in northern Sinai’s El Arish against Coptic Christians were indirect attempts by armed groups to undermine the government, according to Egyptian experts and analysts…

Judaism and Christianity have a history marked by violence (Agenzia Fides) Even “Judaism and Christianity have a history of violence,” and all religions have been complicite in acts of violence and murder. This is how Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyib, grand imam of Al Azhar, wanted to highlight that the connection between religion and violence not only marks the history of Islam, but also characterized the historical paths of the two other “Religions of the Book”…

Bitter Lent for the Syrian churches, many priests have fled (Agenzia Fides) The Christians of Syria are preparing to live a “bitter Lent,” and among the many factors of suffering and sorrow afflicting the churches of Syria there is the fact that many priests who during the years of civil war left the country, depriving the remaining faithful of their pastoral comfort…

For Gaza priest, a forgotten people sees hope (AsiaNews) People in Gaza “live day by day” in a situation that “is becoming more desperate.” Many residents, including Christians, have been forced “to borrow” to buy some food and electricity,” this according to the Rev. Mario da Silva, a Brazilian priest who heads the Latin Catholic Holy Family Church, the only one in the Strip…



28 February 2017
Greg Kandra




Several Melkite bishops boycotted the bishops’ synod last June, demanding the resignation of Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, pictured at the Vatican in 2015. The Melkite synod will resume later this year. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Reconciliation marks Melkite synod (CNS) The Melkite Catholic Church resumed its Synod of Bishops after nearly an eight-month interruption. The bishops thanked “the divine redeemer for the spirit of reconciliation and renewed commitment to walk together in partnership to restore peace in the church” in a statement released at the conclusion of the three-day meeting on 23 February at the patriarchate in Rebweh, Lebanon...

Iraq army seizes key Mosul bridge (CNN) The Iraqi army says it has recaptured a bridge across the Tigris River in west Mosul, where fierce battles are ongoing to oust ISIS from its last bastion in Iraq...

Pope: Catholics and Anglicans are brothers and sisters in Christ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday visited the Anglican Parish of All Saints in Rome. Speaking at the Church the Pope said, “today, with gratitude to God, we recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ, through our common baptism. As friends and pilgrims we wish to walk the path together, to follow our Lord Jesus Christ together...”

India’s home minister honors Catholic priest (Vatican Radio) India’s home minister has honoured a Catholic priest on the occasion of Arunachal Pradesh’s 31st statehood day. Salesian Father Cyriac Pulinthanathumalayil of Dimapur province received a state award Gold Medal for Excellence in Youth work from home minister Minister Rajanath Signh at a function on 20 February in the state capital of Itanagar...

Living history in Ethiopia (Huffington Post) The chanting of the two boys sitting under the tree reminded me of my Bar Mitzvah class over 60 years ago. The language was different — Amharic, not Hebrew — as was the religion — Ethiopian Orthodox, not Jewish — and the boys bore little resemblance to the pudgy, pasty pre-adolescent friends of my youth, but the sounds were eerily similar...

How the Oscars put Syria in the spotlight (The Washington Post) Sitting 7,000 miles from the fuss and frills of Sunday’s Academy Awards, it was Raed Saleh, dressed in a simple T-shirt, who delivered one of the most powerful messages of the night. In a short acceptance speech — posted online after a documentary about his Syrian White Helmets rescue force won an Oscar — the former electrical equipment salesman appealed to governments around the world “to stop the bloodshed of the Syrian people...”



27 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita




An Egyptian woman comforts an elderly Coptic Christian lady who weeps upon arriving to take refuge at the Evangelical Church in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya on 25 February 2017. Dozens of Coptic Christians have left Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after a string of jihadist attacks killed three Christians in the restive province, church officials said. (photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt’s Coptic Christians flee Sinai after killings (Al Jazeera) Hundreds of members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority have fled the Sinai Peninsula to Ismailia, about 70 miles northeast of the capital Cairo, following a series of killings by a local armed group...

Salafists condemn the 7 targeted killings of Copts in North Sinai (Agenzia Fides) The spokesman of Al Nur, the ultra-conservative Salafi Party, have publicly expressed its condemnation of targeted killings against Coptic Christians that took place in northern Sinai, stressing that they “go against the teachings of Islam”...

‘It is not without a tear ... that I leave Jerusalem’ (LPJ.org) Bishop William Shomali addresses the Jordanian faithful and calls to mind the main challenges that lie ahead...

Armenian Catholicos convenes a summit to solve dilemma in Constantinople (Agenzia Fides) Patriarch Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, convened at the Patriarchal See of Echmiadzin, in Yerevan, some of the protagonists of the dispute in place with regards to the next election of the Armenian Apostolic patriarch of Constantinople, in an attempt to resolve the situation...



24 February 2017
Michael J.L. La Civita




Christian pilgrims visit Bethany Beyond the Jordan, which marks the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus. (photo: CNEWA)

Tourism of the Hashemite Kingdom focuses on ‘Christian places’ (Fides) - Biblical religious tourism and especially national “Christian heritage” are increasingly at the center of the Jordanian government strategies to encourage the flow of foreign visitors to the Hashemite Kingdom...

Another Coptic Christian found dead in northern Sinai (Fides) A 40-year-old Coptic Christian was found dead with a gunshot to the neck, in the Egyptian town of Al Arish, capital of Northern Sinai, on Thursday, 23 February...

Pope Francis to rabbis: Torah manifests God’s paternal love (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received his long-time friend from his native Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, on Thursday, along with a delegation of Jewish leaders involved in the preparation of a new edition of the Torah. The annotated, illustrated edition is already being hailed as an achievement in both the literary and visual arts...

Vatican, Al Azhar ask world to help stop religious extremism, terrorism (CNS) The Vatican and Al Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s leading institution of higher learning, called for the world’s governments, organizations and leaders to cooperate with each other in countering extremist and violent groups, noting that such groups “have negatively impacted stability and peaceful coexistence among peoples...”

Iraqi Christians erect large cross in area liberated from ISIS (CNA/EWTN News) After years of darkness, hope has returned to Telekuf-Tesqopa. Located just 17 miles from Mosul, the village is rebuilding after being liberated from ISIS. As a visible sign of the rebuilding, a giant cross was erected on a hill, marking the victory of the Christian faith against the darkness of the jihadists...

Christians and Muslims on a peace march in Iraq (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I has launched a ‘Peace March’ on Palm Sunday “open to Christians and Muslims,” which “will set off from Erbil and end in Alqosh” in the Nineveh Plain. People will be “on foot for one day” calling for an end to violence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East...



23 February 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Women await consecration by Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa in Kolwezi, the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria restored the deaconess ministry during its working session held in November 2016. (photo: Patriarchate of Alexandria)

Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria performs first consecration of deaconesses (OCP Media Network) On the feast of St. Theodore of Tyre, 17 February 2016, the day on which His Beatitude Theodoros II, pope and patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, celebrates his name day, a festive Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Holy Church of St. Nicholas in Kolwezi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the end of the Divine Liturgy the patriarch consecrated the catechist elder Theano, one of the first members of the Missionary staff in Kolwezi, to deaconess of the Missions of the Holy Metropolis of Katanga and read the prayer for one entering the ecclesiastic ministry for three sisters and two catechists, in order for them to assist the missionary effort of the Holy Metropolis, particularly with adult baptisms and marriages. Note that it is the first time in the history of Missions in Africa that these consecrations have been done…

It’s families helping families as Catholics, others aid Syrian refugees (CNS) Parishes and Catholic ministries have stepped up to help refugee families — most recently, several from Syria — adjust to a new life in the United States. “We reach out to our vulnerable brothers and sisters,” said Kaela Volkmer, who chairs the social teaching ministry at St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha and helped welcome a Syrian family — Ahmed and Sahar al Kango and their three boys — two days before Christmas…

Two Copts killed in sectarian attack in Sinai (Fides) Two Coptic Christians were found murdered on Wednesday, 22 February in the northern Sinai peninsula, after a video message announcing new attacks presumably by Jihadists against the Christian community had been spread in past days…

Iraqi forces storm Mosul airport in effort to seize city from ISIS (The Guardian) Iraqi forces seized control of much of Mosul airport on Thursday morning, marking an important moment in a push to recapture the city from ISIS. The advance into the airport, to the southwest of Mosul, will allow troops to use the large, sprawling area to launch operations into the fortified western suburbs, where several thousand of Isis’s most seasoned fighters have prepared defenses…

Pope Francis: Greetings to Rabbi Skorka, Jewish delegation (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday received a group of rabbis led by Rabbi Abraham Skorka — the pope’s longtime friend from his native Argentina — on the occasion of their presentation to him of a new edition of the Torah…



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Africa Women

22 February 2017
Greg Kandra




Refugees from Eritrea tell Pope Francis about their journey to safety during a meeting 21 February at the Vatican with participants in the VI International Forum on Migration and Peace.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)


Pope: Protection of migrants is a moral duty (Vatican Radio) Speaking to participants of an International Forum on Migration and Peace taking place in Rome, whom he received in the Vatican, the Pope said the political community, civil society and the Church must offer a shared response to the complexities of the phenomenon of migration today . “Our shared response, he said, may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate...”

750,000 people trapped in Mosul ‘on brink of starvation’ (The Telegraph) Many of the 750,000 civilians trapped inside Mosul are on “the brink of starvation” as Iraqi forces fight their way into the western half of the city, aid groups have warned. Backed by Western airpower and special forces, Iraqi troops and Shia milita fighters are preparing to storm Mosul’s airport and begin the final phase of liberating the city. The offensive to drive Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) from Iraq’s second largest city began in October and civilian food supplies are running low after four months of siege...

ISIS threatens to eliminate Egypt’s Christians (ARA News) The radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) on Sunday released a new propaganda video, threatening to eliminate Egypt’s Christians and vowing to “liberate Cairo.” The video also shows the last statement of a man it said was responsible for the deadly bombing of a Coptic cathedral in Cairo on 11 December, that killed at least 28 people, mostly women and children...

Gaza is outwardly rebuilding, but inwardly fearful (The New York Times) Gaza seems at a loss for what might be next. After so many years of isolation, residents of Gaza find themselves ever further from Palestinians in the West Bank, their future clouded by rising doubts that they could ever unite and work toward a lasting peace...

U.N. boosts aid for Ethiopia, Somalia to head off famine (Voice of America) U.N. aid agencies are appealing to international donors to provide money to scale up lifesaving operations in drought-stricken Ethiopia and Somalia, where millions of hungry people are at risk of death and illness...

Historic Kerala church renovated (The Hindu) The Koonan Kurishu Church (Church of the Leaning Cross) in Mattancherry has undergone a transformation worthy of its remarkable place in history. The church, built in 1751, commemorates the January 1653 vow taken by the Malankara Nazranis or Christians against Portuguese and Roman Catholic Church attempts to dominate their spiritual and ritual affairs. The 1751 church underwent major renovation in 1974. Now, it has been renovated by retaining the original structure except in places where it had deteriorated badly...



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ethiopia Kerala ISIS





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