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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
11 October 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad describes what he and other Christians have endured in Iraq. As the country prepares for the liberation of Mosul, Iraq, there have been disputes about who will control the territory. (video: Rome Reports)

Disputes over future control of Mosul (Fides) The preliminary phases to the military assault for the liberation of Mosul from jihadists of the Islamic State sees the increase of political, geopolitical and sectarian disputes about the future political and ethno-religious structure of the region among the various actors in the field, after the possible defeat of the Caliphate...

The rise of Syria’s White Helmets (The Economist) Operating across rebel-held parts of the country, Syria’s civil-defence team has grown from small, ragtag bands of untrained volunteers into a formidable search-and-rescue force. The group has rescued more than 60,000 people since 2014, when it began to keep count. Known as the White Helmets for the color of the hard hats they wear, the rescue workers were nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize...

Turkey extends state of emergency following failed coup (NPR) In Turkey, the sweeping crackdown that began after the failed coup attempt in July isn’t slowing down. A three-month state of emergency billed as a temporary measure has just been extended for another three months...

Israel shuts down access to Gaza, West Bank for Yom Kippur (AFP) Israeli authorities have barred Palestinians from entering the country from the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, ahead of the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday that begins on Tuesday evening, the army said. Such closures are often put in place for major Jewish holidays, but Israeli security forces are on especially high alert following an attack by a Palestinian gunman in Jerusalem on Sunday that killed two people...

Bees bring hope to Palestine (Vatican Radio) On the West Bank, near Ramallah, honey production has become one of the basic economic resources for a group of women...



7 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian refugees arrive at a refugee camp in early May at the Jordan border with Syria. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)

U.N. to make aid delivery to Syrian refugees on Jordan’s border (Reuters) United Nations aid agencies will make their first deliveries of relief in two months to thousands of Syrian refugees stranded on Jordan’s northeastern border with Syria, the world body said on Thursday. More than 75,000 people, mostly women and children, have been stuck for months in makeshift camps in a no-man’s land on the Syrian side of the border, after fleeing central and eastern Syria…

Maronite archbishop: Aleppo is divided like a new Berlin (Vatican Radio) Daily life in the fiercely contested Syrian city of Aleppo becomes worse by the day. In an interview with Vatican Radio, Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo said nowhere is safe in the Syrian city which he called a “new Berlin.” The archbishop described how the residents of Aleppo are living with death on a daily basis as a result of the frequent bombardments and shelling, saying they celebrate at least ten funerals every day for those killed by the fighting…

A million children in Syria sign appeal for peace (Vatican Radio) More than one million children in Syria have been signing a petition calling for peace as part of a fresh appeal to political leaders to end the Syrian civil war…

Kidnapped Christians released in Egypt (Christian Today) Four Coptic Christians, including a child, who were kidnapped on Monday in the Egyptian town of Manfalout in Assiut, have returned home safely after a ransom was paid, according to the independent Cairo newspaper Watani…

Evidence of ancient Assyrian church discovered in Kazakhstan (The Astana Times) The ancient city of Ilyn Balik is well known from pilgrims’ travels. Recent excavations in Usharal village have uncovered an ancient city and cemetery with eight Nestorian gravestones and the markers prove Christianity was present in Kazakhstan long before Western imperialism…



Tags: Syria Egypt Jordan

6 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Children play in water from a burst pipe after an air strike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 September. (photo: CNS/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

In Syria, Eastern Aleppo faces ‘total ruin’ in a matter of months (BBC) Rebel-held eastern Aleppo in northern Syria may face “total destruction” in two months, with thousands killed, the United Nations Syria envoy has said. Staffan de Mistura told reporters that he was prepared to personally accompany Al Qaeda-linked jihadists out of the city if it would stop the fighting…

Syrian forces seize half of rebel-held neighborhood in Aleppo (Reuters) Syrian government forces seized around half of a key opposition-held neighborhood in Aleppo on Thursday in a new advance against rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said…

Holy See: World cannot ‘lose resolve’ in migration crisis (Vatican Radio) The permanent representative of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, on Wednesday addressed the executive committee meeting of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees…

Russian Orthodox Church: Collaboration more important than ever (Asia News) Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov, secretary for relations between Christians from the Moscow Patriarchate, hopes cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics will result in “peacekeepers” and “moral reference points” in a world marked by armed conflicts, terrorism, persecution, consumerism, materialism. He also speaks of the difficulties among Orthodox churches. Pope Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Cuba catalyzed the growth of fraternal relations between Moscow and Rome…

Israel halts yacht trying to break Gaza embargo (The New York Times) Their chances of reaching the shores of Gaza were never high: Thirteen women on a yacht hoping to breach the years-old sea blockade of the Hamas-run Palestinian coastal territory enforced by the Israeli Navy. Naval officers boarded the yacht, the Zaytouna-Oliva, at dusk on Wednesday in international waters, after it had spent eight days at sea. It was searched and redirected toward the southern Israeli port of Ashdod…

Sheptytsky Institute moving to new location (Catholic Register) Canada’s premier center for university-level studies of Ukrainian Catholic theology, tradition and liturgy is moving from Ottawa to Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College. The Andrey Sheptytsky Institute will move from Saint Paul University, where it has operated since 1990, on 1 July 2017. Toronto classes will begin next September. It will offer master’s and Ph.D. programs in Eastern Christian spirituality and doctrine, liturgy, church history and ecumenism…



Tags: Syria Israel Eastern Christianity Christian Unity Migrants

5 October 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis reflected on his recent trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan in his general audience Wednesday. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope reflects on trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan (Vatican Radio) At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis reflected on his recent apostolic voyage to Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Holy Father said: “This visit complemented my visit to Armenia in June, and fulfilled my desire to visit all three nations of the Caucasus to confirm the Catholic community and to encourage all the people in their journey toward peace and fraternity.” He concluded his address with the prayer, “May God bless Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and guide his holy people in those countries…”

Four Copts, including a child, kidnapped (Fides) Four Coptic Christians, one of whom is a 9-year-old boy, were kidnapped on 3 October in the city of Manfalut, in the province of Assiut, about 220 miles south of Cairo…

Syrian government forces advance on Aleppo (Al Jazeera) Syrian government tanks crossed the frontline in the battleground city of Aleppo for the first time in four years, as a Russian-backed offensive to retake the rebel-held east escalated on the ground. Pro-government forces were “gradually advancing” after street battles on Tuesday in the divided city’s rebel-controlled neighborhoods, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights…

The refugee camp at the foot of the Washington Monument (NPR) Sabrina Chang, 30, didn’t know much about the global refugee crisis. “I think I could spit out headlines that I’ve seen, but that’s about it,” she says. But then she found herself — for a moment — in refugees’ shoes. Chang visited Forced From Home, a touring interactive exhibition hosted by Doctors Without Borders, the medical aid group. The exhibit is a re-creation of a refugee camp, about the size of half a school gymnasium, with a store, a hospital and places to sleep. It began its run in New York last month and is at the foot of the Washington Monument until 9 October, then moves to Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

India announces day of interfaith prayer in response to Kashmir crisis (Fides) “We announce a major national prayer to be held on Sunday, 16 October 2016: all the bishops, all the priests, religious and laity, will animate Masses, liturgies, vigils and prayers for the good of the nation. We call on all men and women of good will to join us and pray for our beloved country, invoking God’s blessing on our population.” This is the appeal launched by Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and president of the interreligious Episcopal Conference of India, in response to the Kashmir crisis and the escalation on the border region with Pakistan…



Tags: Syria India Egypt Pope Francis Caucasus

4 October 2016
Greg Kandra




A man inspects the damage at a wedding hall on 4 October, a day after a suicide attack targeted a Kurdish wedding party in the village of Tall Tawil in the Syrian Hassake province. (photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

Suicide bomber kills dozens at Kurdish wedding in Syria (BBC) At least 30 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack at a Kurdish wedding in northeastern Syria. The explosion occurred on Monday night at a hall in Tal Tawil, outside Hassake city, reportedly while the bride and groom were exchanging vows…

Report: Ten countries host half of the world’s refugees (Al Jazeera) Ten countries — which account for just 2.5 percent of the global economy — are hosting more than half the world’s refugees, a rights group has said, accusing wealthy countries of leaving poorer nations to bear the brunt of a worsening crisis. In a report published on Tuesday, Amnesty International said the unequal share was exacerbating the global refugee problem, as inadequate conditions in the main countries of shelter pushed many to embark on dangerous journeys to Europe and Australia…

‘ISIS module’ arrested in Kerala (The Indian Express) A graphic artist with a right-wing local newspaper, a Malayalee working in Oman for the last five years and an engineering student who dropped out are among the six members of the alleged Islamic State module busted in Kerala on Sunday, who are suspected to have been engaged in propagating the terror group’s ideology, according to NIA…

Israel tightens security for Jewish new year (Reuters) Israelis went to the market on Sunday for last-minute purchases as they prepared for the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown, amid tightened security and the closure of the Palestinian territories. Rosh Hashanah, the two-day Jewish new year, will conclude at nightfall on Tuesday…

Catholic, Anglican bishops seeking closer partnership in mission (Vatican Radio) Closer practical cooperation between Anglicans and Catholics in countries across the globe: that’s the primary goal of a two day visit of Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, to Rome this week. The Anglican leader arrives on Wednesday and is scheduled to join Pope Francis for Vespers at the church of San Gregorio al Celio in the afternoon…



Tags: Syria India Refugees Israel Christian Unity

3 October 2016
Greg Kandra




The video above details some of the highlights of Pope Francis’s trip this past weekend to Azerbaijan, including his visit to a newly dedicated mosque. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope visits mosque in Azerbaijan, issues plea for tolerance (CNS) As the spiritual leader of a tiny religious minority in Azerbaijan, Pope Francis told the leaders of the country’s other religious communities that they share a responsibility to help people grow in faith, but also in tolerance for the faith of others. “The blood of far too many people cries out to God from the Earth, our common home,” the pope said on 2 October during a meeting with religious leaders hosted by Sheik Allahshukur Pashazade, the region’s chief imam, in Baku’s Heydar Aliyev Mosque…

Pope meets charity workers in Tbilisi (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met Catholic charity workers in the Georgian capital and encouraged them in their work, saying “the poor and the weak are the ‘flesh of Christ’ who call upon Christians of every confession, urging them to act without personal interests, following only the prompting of the Holy Spirit.” The meeting took place in the grounds of the Camilliani health clinic in Tbilisi and was attended by its director and the head of Caritas Georgia. Also present were staff and volunteers working for various Catholic charitable organizations in Georgia as well as patients and medical staff from the Camilliani clinic…

Syrian cave hospital shut down after attack (CNN) A hospital inside a cave in northeastern Syria has been forced to shut down after being hit by suspected “bunker-buster” missiles, according to an international aid organization. The hospital just outside of Hama — about 27 miles north of Homs — was hit Sunday, according to the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations…

Al Azhar University will organize international conference on peace (Fides) The Islamic University of Al Azhar will organize in early 2017, in cooperation with the Muslim Council of Elders, an international conference on peace, coexistence and interreligious dialogue, which will also include the active representatives of the Christian Churches of the East…

Ukrainian church in Canada destroyed by fire reopens (CBC) After a devastating fire, which burned St. Elias Ukrainian Catholic Church to the ground in April 2014, the Brampton church has now reopened, and to celebrate the church held its opening liturgy and consecration on Saturday. Hundreds of parishioners and guests from around the world attended, including head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who flew in from Ukraine to preside…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Georgia Canada Azerbaijan

30 September 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Pope Francis lands in Georgia and begins his trips to the Caucasus.
(video: Rome Reports)


Pope Francis arrives in Georgia to begin visit (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has arrived in Georgia at the start of a three day trip to the Caucasus which will also take him Sunday for a brief visit to Azerbaijan. On Friday, Georgian government, civil and religious leaders and members of the Catholic community turned out at Tbilisi’s international airport to greet the pontiff, whose plane touched down shortly before 3:00 pm local time...

Pope Francis calls for respect of international law (Reuters) Pope Francis called for respect for international law and the sovereign rights of nations as he arrived in Georgia on Friday, an implicit criticism of Russia, which keeps troops in two breakaway areas of the ex-Soviet state. But Francis measured his words carefully, in an apparent attempt not to hurt the Vatican’s increasingly warm ties with the Kremlin-backed Russian Orthodox Church...

Archbishop expresses hope over papal visit (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Raphael Minassian hopes that the Papal visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia will promote peace in the region. The small Catholic community in Georgia, which Pope Francis is visiting on Friday and Saturday, is made up of Latin, Chaldean and Armenian rites...

Syria military says it retook hospital, refugee camp in Aleppo (USA TODAY) Syrian government forces took control of a hospital in the besieged northern city of Aleppo on Friday, a day after seizing a Palestinian refugee camp in the city from rebels, according to Syria’s military. The military said its forces captured the Kindi hospital and were strengthening their positions in the Handarat refugee camp, the Associated Press reported...

U.S. surpasses Syrian refugee goal (The Washington Post) The United States has admitted 12,500 refugees from war- ravaged Syria over the past year, surpassing President Obama’s target, and expects to admit even more next year, a State Department official said Tuesday...



29 September 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, the UN Special Envoy to Syria expresses his gratitude to Pope Francis for his efforts to bring peace to Syria. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope Francis speaks to Mideast aid agencies (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received representatives from the various Catholic aid agencies and charitable organizations under the leadership of the Pontifical Council Cor unum working in Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the region affected by the ongoing conflicts in both Syria and Iraq. The Pontifical Council Cor unum is the Pope’s special instrument for carrying out humanitarian initiatives, promoting integral human development, coordinating the initiatives of Catholic Organizations, and encouraging the faithful to give concrete witness to the Gospel through charitable activity...

Russia rejects U.S. demands for resumption of Syrian cease-fire (The New York Times) The Russian government vowed on Thursday to press ahead with its operations in Syria, dismissing Secretary of State John Kerry’s threat to cut off talks if the bombardment of Aleppo continued. “We have more than once suggested 48-hour pauses in order to ensure humanitarian access,” Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister of Russia, told reporters in Moscow on Thursday. “But our American colleagues are totally fixated on demands of a seven-day pause for reasons that only they know...”

Patriarch: Palestinian refugees have right to return to their homeland (Fides) The international recognition of the Palestinian State is an act which cannot be delayed if one really wants to favor the re-establishment of peace in the Middle East. And one must also support and ensure the return of all Palestinian refugees, still scattered in the Middle East, to their homeland, which is one of their “natural rights.” This is how Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai defined the prerogative claimed by the descendants of the Palestinian Arab populations who fled from Palestine after the birth of the State of Israel...

Baby born in jungle symbolizes suffering of India’s Christians (Crux) When Father Madan Singh was recently appointed the director of Jana Vikas, a grassroots organization based in the eastern Indian region of Kandhamal, the very first thing he did was to visit a young girl named “Jungle Rani,” whose mother gave birth to her in 2008 when tens of thousands of Christians took refuge in a forest during ferocious anti-Christian riots...

Vatican publishes theme for 2017 World Day for Social Communications (Vatican Radio) The theme for the Church’s 2017 World Day for Social Communications was published on Thursday. The theme or motto chosen for this event is: “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43.5). Communicating hope and trust in our time...



28 September 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2014, Pope Francis welcomes former Israeli President Shimon Peres during a meeting at the Vatican. Peres died Tuesday at the age of 93.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA)


Pope Francis offers condolences on death of Shimon Peres (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his “heartfelt condolences” to the people of Israel upon learning of the death of their former President, Shimon Peres. He died on Tuesday at the age of 93. “I fondly recall my time with Mr Peres at the Vatican and renew my great appreciation for the late President’s tireless efforts in favor of peace,” Pope Francis said...

Children of Aleppo, trapped in a killing zone (The New York Times) Among the roughly 250,000 people trapped in the insurgent redoubt of the divided northern Syrian city are 100,000 children, the most vulnerable victims of intensified bombings by Syrian forces and their Russian allies. Though the world is jolted periodically by the suffering of children in the Syria conflict — the photographs of Alan Kurdi’s drowned body and Omran Daqneesh’s bloodied face are prime examples — dead and traumatized children are increasingly common...

Pope renews appeal for Aleppo (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has once again appealed for peace in Syria. At his General Audience on Wednesday, the Pope said, “dramatic news continues to reach me concerning the fate of the people of Aleppo, with whom, through prayer and spiritual closeness, I feel united in suffering...”

Among young Lebanese, only 25 percent are Christians (Fides) Today, Christians account for 34 percent of the Lebanese population registered in the civil Status register. But if the focus is placed on the Lebanese population up to 25 years of age, the percentage of Christians drops to 25 percent. This is the most eloquent demographic data on the current number of Christians in Lebanon, released by the vice president of the Maronite League Hiam Boustany at the Conference convened yesterday by the Movement for the Earth at the convent of Mar Yacoub, in the village of Karm Saddeh and dedicated to the sale of land belonging to Christian owners...

Russian implicated in shooting down Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine (The New York Times) A Dutch-led investigation has concluded that the powerful surface-to-air missile system that was used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine two years ago, killing all 298 on board, was trucked in from Russia at the request of Russian-backed separatists and returned to Russia the same night. The report largely confirmed the already widely documented Russian government role not only in the deployment of the missile system, called a Buk, or SA-11, but the subsequent cover up, which continues to this day...

Patriarch Kirill signs petition urging Putin to ban abortion (AFP) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Tuesday signed a petition calling for a legal ban on abortion, the Church said in a statement. The Patriarch met anti-abortion campaigners and signed a petition to be handed to President Vladimir Putin urging a ban on abortions. The Patriach’s signing of the petition apparently represents a hardening of the Church’s position as it has previously only called for a ban on state-provided abortions without a medical necessity...,/p>

Ethiopians mark Meskel (Reuters) Orthodox priests lit a bonfire in the heart of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Monday evening to mark the eve of Meskel, a festival to mark the finding of the cross of Jesus. Tens of thousands of people, many holding up candles in the failing light as the sun set, crowded on terraces around the square where the ceremony was led by the head of Ethiopia’s Christian Orthodox church, Patriarch Abune Mathias...



27 September 2016
Greg Kandra




Staffan de Mistura, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, addresses the Security Council
on 25 September. (photo: U.N./Kim Haughton)


‘If we lose this generation, we lose Syria’ (Al Jazeera) Millions of displaced Syrian children have been forced to quit school amid a protracted civil war that has left the country in ruins. In Turkey, which has grappled with a massive refugee influx over the past five years, more than half of Syrian refugee children are not receiving a formal education, according to Human Rights Watch. Finding few alternatives, many of these children have taken jobs in factories or turned to the streets, selling tissues or gum to earn a meager income...

U.N. briefing: ‘Chilling days for Syria’ (UN.org) The past week has been one of the worst ones in Syria during the near six years of this devastating conflict. Earlier in the week I had to deeply regret the fact that the meeting of the International Syria Support Group did not yield the results we were hoping...

Crisis in Ethiopia: Drought persists, nutrition suffers (Aleteia) Spring brought rain, and some relief, but in some places too much rain led to severe flooding, which displaced 190,000 people. “The majority of Ethiopian farmers are dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Rain failure is a disaster for farmers,” said Argaw Fantu, regional director in Ethiopia for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. “Some areas are also naturally disadvantaged areas as the rainfall is so erratic, [and because of the] rocky and mountainous nature of the area...”

Vatican releases details of pope’s upcoming visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan (Vatican Radio) At a briefing for journalists at the Holy See press office on Monday, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke gave details of Pope Francis’ forthcoming three day visit to the republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. It’ll be his 16th pastoral visit outside Italy and it’ll be focused on the themes of peace and brotherhood, following on from the message of peace that he took with him to the neighboring republic of Armenia last June...

New program helps refugees in Canada develop job skills (The Catholic Register) Refugee youth in Calgary are learning essential job skills through a new program run by the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS). On 6 September, CCIS announced the launch of the program that will benefit young refugees in the Archdiocese of Calgary. The Enhancing Refugee Youth Employment Outcomes project will help 48 young refugee, ages 15 to 30, develop job skills and gain work experience...







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