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Current Issue
September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
29 December 2016
Greg Kandra




Women light candles before attending Christmas Eve Mass at the Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Damascus, Syria. The Syrian government has announced a cease-fire agreement on Thursday, a potential turning point in the war. (photo: CNS/Youssef Badawi, EPA)

Syrian government announces truce (The New York Times) The Syrian government and its most important ally, Russia, announced on Thursday that they had reached a cease-fire agreement with Syrian rebels and with Turkey — a potential turning point in a civil war that has lasted nearly six years and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives...

Winter moves in across Lebanon and refugees struggle (UNHCR) There are just over one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. One-in-two live in substandard shelters like tents, garages, warehouses, unfinished buildings and animal sheds. They require continuous support to maintain their shelters, especially during winter, which can be bitter and long in Lebanon. More rain and snowstorms are forecast for the coming weeks. Some high-altitude towns in the Bekaa Valley and northern Lebanon have already been blanketed in snow...

Iraqi units resume offensive in Mosul (The Washington Post) Iraqi army, police and elite counterterrorism forces launched a combined assault on eastern Mosul after a two-week break, the military announced Thursday...

Kerry’s blunt words for Israel draw criticism (The New York Times) Secretary of State John Kerry’s rebuke of the Israeli government on Wednesday set off a wave of criticism from lawmakers in both parties. Republicans denounced what they said was the Obama administration’s harsh treatment of a steadfast ally and Democrats signaled that they were uneasy with Mr. Kerry’s pressure on Israel, even as they praised the effort to promote Middle East peace...

Palestinian family celebrates first Christmas together in 26 years (CNS) For the first time in 26 years, Lilian and Nadeem Aqleh had all six of their children with them to celebrate Christmas. “This is the happiest day of my life,” said Lilian, 70, who is Catholic, as she celebrated the holiday with her children and grandchildren, some of who traveled from the United States and Canada. “It is hard having your children so far away. I want my children with me. At Christmas we remember the birth of Christ and the meaning of Christmas is to share it with family...”



28 December 2016
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, celebrates Christmas Mass at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
(photo: CNS/Musa Al Shaer, pool via EPA)


In Christmas messages, patriarchs plead for peace (CNS) Lamenting the exodus of Christians from their ancestral homelands, Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East pleaded for peace and security in their annual Christmas messages. In separate statements, the prelates shared their anguish regarding the persecution and uprooting of Christians from the region...

Pope asks for love, prayers for persecuted Christians (CNS) Despite increased persecution and attacks against Christians, the faithful must strengthen their courage and joyful desire to follow Christ no matter the cost, Pope Francis said...

Israel postpones vote on new settlements (BBC) An Israeli committee has postponed a vote to authorize construction of almost 500 new homes in Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. The move apparently follows a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. It also comes ahead of a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. On Friday, the U.S. chose not to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to settlement construction...

Turkey, Russia discuss cease-fire plan for Syria (AP) Turkish and Russian officials are discussing the contours of a cease-fire for Syria, Syrian opposition factions said, building on cooperation between the two countries following a deal they brokered for the evacuation of opposition fighters from the northern city of Aleppo earlier this month...

Russian Orthodox metropolitan sends Christmas greetings to Pope Francis (Moscow Patriarchate) Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, sent Christmas greeting to Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strom, chairman of the Council of the EKD, and heads of other non-Orthodox Churches...



27 December 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets the crowd after delivering his Christmas message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican
on 25 December. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)


Pope: World scarred by war, greed must welcome Prince of Peace (CNS) The song of the angels that heralded the birth of Christ urges men and women to seek peace in a world divided by war, terrorism and greed, Pope Francis said. “Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace,” the pope said on 25 December...

Pope prays for victims of Russian plane crash (Vatican Radio) After the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square on the Feast of Saint Stephen, Pope Francis expressed his condolences to the Russian people and the families of victims of the Christmas day plane crash that took the lives of 92 people near Sochi...

Vulnerable Ukrainians receive aid from Pope (Vatican Radio) Thanks to Pope Francis over 2 million people affected by the humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine will receive a first installment of much needed aid in time for Christmas...

Iraqi forces to resume assault on Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi forces will resume their push against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) inside Mosul in the coming days, a U.S. battlefield commander has told Reuters. The move would be a new phase of the two-month-old operation that will see American troops deployed closer to the front line in the city...

Abducted Kerala priest appeals to Pope Francis for freedom (Indian Express) In a video posted on social media platforms, a Catholic priest from Kerala, who was abducted in Yemen in March this year, has appealed to the central government and Pope Francis to secure his release. He has alleged that not enough efforts were being made to free him because, as an Indian, he was “not considered of much value...”



22 December 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrians children play in the snow at a tent city in the Azaz neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, on 21 December. (photo: Mustafa Sultan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

U.N. to create team to investigate Syria war crimes (Al Jazeera) The United Nations General Assembly has voted to establish a special team to “collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence” as well as to prepare cases on war crimes and human rights abuses committed during the conflict in Syria. The General Assembly adopted a Liechtenstein-drafted resolution to establish the independent team with 105 in favor, 15 against and 52 abstentions. The team will work in coordination with the U.N. Syria Commission of Inquiry…

Three car bombings strike Mosul (AP) Three car bombs ripped through an outdoor market in Mosul on Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and eight policemen, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said in a statement. The attack occurred in the eastern district of Gogjali, which Iraqi forces retook from Islamic State militants weeks ago as part of a massive operation to drive them from Mosul, the brief statement said. It did not say whether the explosions were caused by suicide attackers…

Indian Christians in Orissa seek protection for Christmas (Fides) A few days before Christmas, the Christians of Kandhamal district in the Indian state of Orissa, the epicenter of the anti-Christian massacres of 2008, have called for a Christmas free from all violence. “We want to celebrate Christmas in peace and serenity,” says the Rev. Pradosh Chandra Nayak, pastor of Our Lady of Charity Church in Raikia in Kandhamal. The pastor submitted a written request to the local police station in Raikia to ask protection for churches and Christian villages during the Christmas celebrations…

Israeli university defends Christmas tree against criticism (RNS) Administrators at the Technion, a public research university in Haifa, are rushing to defend the presence of a Christmas tree in the campus’ student union building. Their statement of support is part of a larger pushback against Jewish religious authorities who hold that such decorations have no place in public settings in predominantly Jewish areas in Israel…

Christmas thrives in Lebanon (CNS) Amid the turmoil in the Middle East and persecution of Christians in surrounding countries, the Christmas spirit is evident in Lebanon: sparkling lights, decorated trees and even mangers in public places. “Wherever you go you can find Christmas decorations,” even in the cities and the places where the residents are Muslim, the Rev. Joseph Soueid told Catholic News Service…



Tags: Syria Iraq India Lebanon Israel

21 December 2016
Greg Kandra




Sister Guadalupe Rodrigo, who has lived in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and is one of the last Christians left in Aleppo, says Muslims in Syria fear for their country without Christians.
(video: Rome Reports)


Russia, Iran, Turkey meet for Syria talks (The New York Times) Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Moscow on Tuesday to work toward a political accord to end Syria’s nearly six-year war, leaving the United States on the sidelines as the countries sought to drive the conflict in ways that serve their interests. Secretary of State John Kerry was not invited. Nor was the United Nations consulted...

ISIS in Mosul reportedly targeting civilians as it retreats (AP) Islamic State militants in Mosul are deliberately targeting civilians who refuse to join them as they retreat ahead of advancing Iraqi forces involved in a large-scale government operation to retake the militant-held city, an international watchdog said on Wednesday...

Catholic Church in Ethiopia promoting peace and tolerance (Vatican Radio) he Catholic Church in Ethiopia has joined other religious leaders and the government to promote peaceful coexistence in communities in conflict. The head of the Justice and Peace Department of the bishops’ conference says in the past year the Church managed to bring together disputing ethnic groups in different parts of the country. Conflicts have arisen in some parts of the vast nation due disputes over grazing land and the stealing of herds...

Pope prays for Russia after attack (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has expressed his condolences to the family of the Russian ambassador to Turkey who was shot dead by a police officer at an art exhibition. In a message sent by the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Pope said he was “saddened to learn of the violent attack in Ankara, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Andrei Karlov.” He assured the people of the Russian Federation of his prayers and “spiritual solidarity” at this time...

Catholic University receives donation of Ethiopian manuscripts (CUA.edu) The Catholic University of America is now home to one of North America’s most important collections of Ethiopian religious manuscripts, thanks to a generous donation from Chicago collectors Gerald and Barbara Weiner. The handmade manuscripts, which originate from Ethiopia and which date back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, include more than 125 Christian manuscripts, 215 Islamic manuscripts, and 350 “magic” scrolls. With this donation, which is valued at over $1 million, Catholic University is now the holder of the fifth largest collection of Ethiopian Christian manuscripts in the United States and the largest collection of Ethiopian Islamic manuscripts outside of Ethiopia...

Salt + Light moves to new headquarters (Catholic Register) It has been 14 years since the tiny digital television service launched on a shoestring in the afterglow of Toronto’s 2002 World Youth Day. For 2017, the TV station which strives “to give the flavor of the Gospel and the light of Christ to a world that is steeped in darkness and tastelessness at times” has acquired the tools and the space to do the job. On 9 December, Salt + Light moved from its century-old building at the corner of Richmond and Jarvis in Toronto into new space at Davisville and Mt. Pleasant in mid-town. The broadcaster has added a real studio — a broadcast theatre big enough to stage event broadcasts — and nearly tripled its floor space from 8,500 square feet (790 square meters) to 22,000 (2,044 square meters)...



20 December 2016
Greg Kandra




A Syrian child, who was among the people evacuated, flashes the victory sign upon arriving 19 December at a temporary housing center in the countryside outside Aleppo. (photo: CNS/EPA)

Pope Francis pleads for end to “homicidal madness” of terrorism (CNA) What are being called two major acts of terrorism in just the past 24 hours have prompted Pope Francis to again beg for an even stronger commitment to putting such bloody attacks, which have marred many parts of the world over the past 18 months, to an end. “Pope Francis unites to all men and women of good will who commit so that the homicidal madness of terrorism no longer finds space in our world,” a 20 December telegram from the Vatican read...

Aid agencies race against time in Aleppo (Vatican Radio) Tens of thousands of people have fled eastern Aleppo city in the past weeks, seeking safety and protection. However, their new reality could be bleak if they aren’t properly equipped for winter, as temperatures are low and will dip to –5 degrees Celsius at night in the coming days...

Father Murad: reconciliation in Syria will take a long time (Fides) While the evacuation of the population from the east districts of Aleppo controlled for years by rebel militias continue with great difficulty, the Rev. Jacques Murad, Syrian monk of the Deir Mar Musa Community, in a statement issued to Agenzia Fides said that a possible authentic reconciliation will take a long time. “The victims of violence in Syria are all Syrians, Muslims and Christians. And the poor are those who suffer most, those who have not had a chance to escape...”

Iraq unable to treat huge numbers of wounded (The Washington Post) Doctors in an array of medical facilities around Mosul — including military-run field clinics and mobile treatment centers — are struggling to keep up with demand as the offensive against the Islamic State grinds on. As Iraqi forces have pressed deeper into crowded neighborhoods, more than a third of the civilians fleeing require trauma care, a significantly higher proportion than international health experts have seen in other conflicts...

Nuncio to Ukraine brings greetings from the pope (Vatican Radio) The Apostolic Nuncio in Ukraine, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, visited the Catholic communities of both the Greek and the Latin rites in Donetsk and Luhansk from 16 to 18 December 2016. It is customary for the Nuncio to visit different communities on the eve of major religious holidays to convey the greetings and blessing of Pope Francis...

CRS board chair wants to share agency’s work more widely (CNS) The humanitarian work of Catholic Relief Services and its partner agencies directed toward refugees in the Middle East deserves far more attention than it has received and Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour says it’s time Catholics in the pew know about it. The work of feeding, sheltering and providing health care for hundreds of thousands of people who have trekked to safety in Jordan and Lebanon from Iraq and Syria is a story that the mainstream media largely has ignored, much to the chagrin of Bishop Mansour, the incoming chairman of the board at CRS...

India’s ancient Christmas tradition (News India Times) Christmas is celebrated by Indians the world over not just as the more visible manifestation of the Hollywood, mass-produced version, but also as an ancient festival with indigenous Indian traditions...



19 December 2016
Greg Kandra




Civilians from the remaining rebel-held pockets of eastern Aleppo are evacuated from the embattled city by bus on 19 December 2016. (photo: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)

Evacuations from Aleppo resume (BBC) Thousands of people, including dozens of orphans, have left Aleppo in one of the besieged Syrian city’s biggest evacuations yet. More than 4,500 civilians have left rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo so far on Monday...

Jordan attackers planned further assaults (Al Jazeera) Assailants who staged attacks in Jordan’s southern city of Karak on Sunday had suicide vests and other weapons, and were planning further attacks, Interior Minister Salamah Hamad has said. Hamad on Monday did not give details on the identity or nationality of the attackers, saying an investigation was still ongoing...

Church, state seeing eye to eye in Putin’s Russia (AP) The Russian Orthodox Church is expanding its influence in what was once an officially godless state — and President Vladimir Putin appears eager to harness that resurgent power of faith to promote his own agenda. Long consigned to society’s margins in the Soviet era of “scientific atheism,” religious activists in today’s Russia can get theater performances banned and exhibitions closed. Their next target is to end state funding for abortion in a land where nearly half of all pregnancies end in termination...

U.S. House passes religious freedom bill (CNS) The U.S. House 13 December passed the bipartisan Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act and sent it to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature. The measure gives the Obama administration and the U.S. State Department new tools, resources and training to counter extremism and combat a worldwide escalation of persecution of religious minorities...

U.S. bishops form working group to monitor needs of migrants, refugees (CNS) The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is establishing a working group charged with developing spiritual, pastoral and policy advocacy support for immigrants and refugees...

Byzantine art on a grand scale in Winnipeg Ukrainian Catholic Church (Catholic Register) Nativity scenes are common during the Christmas season but few in Canada can match a stained glass window in a Winnipeg church for size and splendor. Created by prominent iconographer Sviatoslav Makarenko of Yonkers, N.Y., the window is a rare example of Byzantine iconography in the leaded stained-glass medium. It dazzles above the main entrance of St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church...



16 December 2016
Greg Kandra




Deserted Christmas stalls are seen in Thiruvananthapuram, India on 11 December. The country’s vendors are facing an economic crisis since the prime minister ordered the withdrawal of a large percentage of rupees in circulation. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)

Syria evacuation grinds to a halt (BBC) The evacuation of east Aleppo has been halted, with Syrian rebels accused of failing to respect a deal to lift their own siege of two pro-government towns. At least 6,000 civilians and rebels are said to have left Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, since Thursday after the government recaptured most of the city. But the UN believes that some 50,000 people are still trapped there...

Limit on bank withdrawals dampens Christmas spirit in India (CNS) For vendor Elizabeth Antony, who ekes out a living selling fish on the roadside in the heart the capital of Kerala state, the Christmas season is not very festive. “This Christmas will be the worst in my memory,” said Antony, 63. “Fish sales have gone down to one third. Even if I stay back on the road till 11 p.m., the little fish I bring is not sold,” Antony told Catholic News Service, blaming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “worst misery” in her life. Modi shocked India on 8 November in an unprecedented and controversial move that saw the banking system withdraw high-valued 500-rupee ($7.30) and 1,000-rupee ($14.60) notes that account for 86 percent of the currency in circulation...

Cardinal issues Christmas Message, praying for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) The President of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, has issued a Christmas Message discussing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria. This war has been the bleakest winter for Syria, but we know that after winter comes spring,” — Cardinal Tagle writes — “With your support, Caritas around the world has been working towards peace in Syria...”

ISIS shows no sign of weakening in Mosul (Reuters) Islamic State fighters have stepped up counterattacks on Iraqi forces in Mosul amid bad weather as the U.S.-backed offensive to capture their last major city stronghold in Iraq enters its third month...

Catholic schools in Ethiopia asked to contribute to eradication of FGM (Vatican Radio) Catholic Schools in Ethiopia are asked to integrate the issue of reproductive health to their system. The Ethiopian Catholic Church Social and Development Commission (ECC SDCO) Education team in collaboration with Women and Family Affairs team organized a 3-day workshop for School Directors and teachers in Addis Ababa from 12-14 December on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other harmful practices...

Start-ups develop technologies to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Financial Times) Local entrepreneurs are developing web services, smartphone apps and hardware for an “internet of things,” with its connected devices, to address the refugee crisis as it grinds through its sixth year...



15 December 2016
Greg Kandra




A man carries a child with an IV drip on 12 December as he flees deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria. (photo: CNS/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

Evacuation effort in Aleppo restarts (The New York Times) A new effort to evacuate thousands of civilians and opposition fighters from the remaining rebel-held districts of the Syrian city of Aleppo started on Thursday, one day after a previous attempt collapsed amid fresh violence. Hundreds of families, including children and wounded adults, gathered in the rebel enclave with bags and blankets, while lines of ambulances and green buses crossed from the city’s government-held side to pick them up. Later in the day, the first wave of evacuees had reached Aleppo’s government-held side...

Imam offers personal condolences to Coptic Patriarch Tawadros (Fides) Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyib, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, led the high-level delegation of the largest Sunni theological center, who yesterday paid a visit at the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate to bring his condolences to Patriarch Tawadros II and of the whole Coptic Church, after the massacre carried out last Sunday in the chapel in Boutroseya next to the Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark...

New violence against Christians in India raising concerns (Fides) New violence against Christians, carried out in view of Christmas, cause concern in the Indian Christian community. According to information gathered by Fides, on 14 December a group of about 30 Hindu militants attacked a group of Catholic faithful in Tikariya, a village just outside the city of Banswara, in Rajasthan State, hitting the Catholic priest Stefphan Rawat, women and other Christians...

More young refugee girls being forced into marriage (International Business Times) Every year, hundreds of Syrian girls living in refugee camps across Lebanon are kidnapped and forced into marriage. This is the fate facing 13-year-old Manal, who was kidnapped from a refugee camp in the Bekaa valley nearly two months ago. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled to Lebanon to escape violence after their country plunged into civil war in 2011. At present, Lebanon is hosting more than one million Syrian refugees, who hope to return to their homeland one day, or build a better life free from war and persecution in their host country...

Thousands rally in Gaza to mark founding of Hamas (Al Jazeera) Tens of thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of gunmen and children waving mock weapons, rallied in Gaza celebrating the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic group Hamas that rules the territory...



14 December 2016
Greg Kandra




Members of the special police forces stand guard to secure the area around the Coptic Orthodox cathedral complex on 11 December after an explosion inside the complex in Cairo. ISIS has now claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least 24 people.
(photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)


Fierce shelling halts Aleppo evacuation (BBC) A deal to evacuate rebel fighters and civilians from eastern Aleppo has stalled, with heavy shelling reported in the Syrian city. A ceasefire was declared in Aleppo on Tuesday and buses brought in to ferry people out of the devastated enclave. But fighting resumed on Wednesday. Syrian activists also say air strikes over rebel-held territory have resumed...

ISIS claims credit for bombing of Coptic cathedral in Egypt (The Wall Street Journal) Islamic State claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed 24 people at Cairo’s main Coptic Christian cathedral this weekend, in what would be the first militant attack on a Christian house of worship in Egypt since 2011. It is the deadliest attack on civilians claimed by the terror group in Egypt since the October 2015 crash of a Russian passenger jet shortly after takeoff from the Red Sea resort city Sharm El Sheikh that killed all 224 people aboard...

AP: Life inside Mosul (AP) The Associated Press interviewed more than two dozen residents who have left Mosul since Iraqi troops began retaking outlying districts last month. They gave a glimpse into life in a place that has been virtually sealed off from the outside under the rule of the Islamic State group...

Soldiers raid agricultural lands in Gaza (International Middle East Media Center) Israeli forces, on Tuesday morning, leveled lands in the northern Gaza Strip, while opening fire on agricultural lands in the southern region of the coastal enclave, according to witnesses. Witnesses told Ma’an News agency that four Israeli bulldozers entered the northeastern Gaza Strip, from the Zekim military base, and leveled lands...

Russia’s Communist Party turns toward the Orthodox Church (Al Jazeera) More than 25 years after the Soviet collapse, the party vocally appeals to Orthodox Christianity, Russia’s dominant creed. The party’s sole post-Soviet chairman Gennady Zyuganov called Jesus “the first Communist” more than once...

Indian bishops launch new policy toward Dalits (Fides) To build a truly inclusive community is an ethical imperative: motivated by this intent the Indian Bishops’ Conference has launched a new policy of inclusion, support and development of Dalits, the poorest and marginalized sectors of Indian society. A document presented by Cardinal Baselios Cleemi, President of the Conference and, among others, by Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara and by Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Conference, explain that this policy aims to be a step forward, to “eradicate the practices of untouchability and caste discrimination at all levels, improving the living conditions of the Dalits and especially accompanying the Dalit Christians who seek constitutional protection and justice from the state...”







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